‘Candy’ Leaves Both Pleasant And Bitter Taste

WARNING: This post may contain possible spoilers!

Hulu’s limited series Candy details the infamous 1980 brutally killing of Betty Gore, a former middle school teacher, in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Wylie, Texas. And like most true-crime series, there’s something good for it and something bad. Like the titular character, it can be very filling for your appetite but it’s also leaves you wanting more.

Jessical Biel stars as Candy Montgomery and she produced the series. Biel is one of those former child actress who at first had a succssful movie career that has tapered off as she got older. In 2012, she married Justin Timerberlake and more or less settled into the role of mother and wife. She’s remained active in movies and TV but a lot of her roles aren’t as prominent as they once were.

This makes her just perfect for the role of Candy Montgomery. You can tell in her performance, she was a woman who had a lot in life she wanted to do before she got sidetracked by reality. It might have been the 1970s, but women were still expected to be housewives and mothers. They were expected to hold baby showers for their friends and neighbors. They were expected to take charge of church events and functions. Biel is about 10 years older than the real Candy but by the June 13, 1980 event, women were expected to look and behave older.

Candy was married to a man who would’ve moved mountains if asked. Timothy Simons portrays Candy’s husband, Pat, with all the dorky calmness and easy going attitude he’d make Fred Rogers and Bob Ross look like Cheech and Chong. When the series opens, he’s listening happily to a Biblical story Candy is preparing. He’s more than happy to take the family out to see The Empire Strikes Back on a Friday evening and allow his daughter’s friend sleep over another night without even question. In many ways, he’s the perfect husband and father, but Candy wanted more.

Intriqued with seeing a friend recently separated/divorced with a handsome man at a volleyball practice, Candy decides to go after her fellow teammate, Allan Gore (Pablo Schreiber) who she also knew from the church choir. Their daughters were good friends. She wants to have an affair and realized that Allan with his athletic body was the person she wanted.

Allan’s homelife was less than filling. When we see the Gore household on a typical morning, Betty’s slow getting up to tend to her infant child, crying in the other room. Allan seems to not even care as he puts the dogs out in the backyard and begins to get ready for work as if his duties as a husband and father ended at signature on his checks for utility payments. Allan’s going to have to go out of town for the weekend for business but to Betty’s frustration.

Betty (Melanie Lynsky) lives a life that doesn’t extend outside the home, it seems. The dull lifelessness of the house compared to Candy’s lively home is apparent. It looks she’s suffering from post-partum depression. But two years earlier, Betty was terminated or forced to resign from her position as a middle school teacher after giving her whole class detention for a prank because no one would speak up. Betty seems resolved to a life she doesn’t like. After leaving education, she tries to foster a boy but things don’t work out as she can’t handle his behavior.

I’m not sure how if the series did the right thing with its portrayal of Betty who looks trapped. The events that happened on June 13 are taken from Candy’s testimony but it does give a possibility that Candy may have been defending herself but snapped. Betty was killed after being struck 41 times with an axe. Candy claimed Betty got it to threaten her after Betty found out about the affiar between her and Allan. Candy had stopped by to pick up a swimsuit. And Betty struck first hitting Candy in the forehead with the butt of the axe.

The series does drag at times. I wished both Scheiber and Simons played their roles better. But they were probably written and even directed to come off as Melvins. Their performances drag the series down. And speaking of Timberlake, he pops up as one of the law officers investigating Betty’s death. While Timberlake has proven to show himself as a good actor in other movies and series, here it’s just comes off as stunt casting.

Where the series really does work is showing the complexity of small-town America that is no different now than it was 40 years ago. The Montgomerys and Gores lived in a society where gossip is dangerous and social standing is important. They were expected to act a certain way and to deviate from it was dangerous. This is the part of the series that really reflects how Candy and Betty were trapped in lives they didn’t want. Candy is portrayed as a woman who always took charge and I guess it’s because what little command she could maintain got her through the days.

When the series does switch to a courtroom setting is when the series finds a great character in Don Crowder (Raul Esparza), a small-town civil lawyer handling his first trial case. You really see how the politics of a small-town come into play as the judget pretty much works with the prosecution to put Candy behind bars for the rest of her life. The judge himself played by Tim Ware, a character actor whose southern drawl has its own personality and he comes off as a judicial official who still thinks pot smokers should get the death penalty. Esparza plays the small-town lawyer so well he’s a good late addition to the series as he calls the judge out on his bias and gets contempt charges and a week in jail.

In the end, the defense works and Candy is acquitted with the irony of her lawyer serving more time behind bars than her. The series doesn’t really focus much on how the acquittal affected the town but you can tell up to then this was already a community divided and maybe they only were friends with Candy because of her social standing. I grew up and have lived in towns like this. Candy was filmed in Georgia but anyone who’s lived in small-town Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Indiana or New Hampshire can probably see their town reflected here.

Word is that HBO Max is also planning on making a series, Love and Death, with Elizabeth Olsen as Candy and Lily Rabe as Betty. Why this case is so popular after more than 40 years is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s to prove that this nostaglia world that everyone claims to miss from their childhoods wasn’t all church picnics and baby showers. Hopefully, the series might improve on where Candy failed in its portrayals of Allan and Pat. Jesse Plemons and Patrick Fugit are reportedly playing those respective roles.

A premiere date couldn’t be found. Maybe HBO is waiting until after the deadlines for the Emmys so there won’t be any competition. Both Biel and Lynskey are good in their respective roles and I won’t doubt seeing Candy nominated as Best Limited Series. Despite its flaws, it’s still like a tasty box of chocolates that you can savor the good pieces while forgetting about the bad pieces.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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