Directed by: Michael Uppendahl, Jennifer Getzinger, Benjamin Semanoff, and Tara Nicole Weyr
Distributed by: Hulu
Written by Jeff Sparks
There have been plenty of true crime miniseries in the streaming era. Many of them are similar and almost seem to copy each other. “Candy” isn’t much different, except this series is of much better quality than you might expect and contains one of the best performances of the year so far. Even though she hasn’t acted since 2019 (except for a guest appearance in “Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?”) the series lead star Jessica Biel appears to not have missed a step and looks better than ever in her performance as Candy Montgomery. Also starring is Melanie Lynskey, Pablo Schreiber, Timothy Simons, and Justin Timberlake.
The series focuses on a church-going housewife named Candy Montgomery (Biel) who committed the crime of brutally murdering a woman from her community with an ax that instilled fear in her community until she was arrested for the crime, changing their fear into disbelief. Consisting of five episodes, the show unravels a new layer to the puzzle with each episode up until the finale which showcases Candy’s retelling of the murder. That particular episode is one example of why this show is an upgrade over other similar series. “The Girl From Plainview” was another recent Hulu show of the same genre that unraveled a crime as it built up to the final episode. Except with “Plainview”, there was no payoff. The show did not show a behind-the-scenes look into the crime but rather focused on what was already known. “Candy” builds up similarly, but it shows you what you want to see instead of merely teasing you.
Although it doesn’t go too deep, “Candy” is still of better quality than just pure mindless entertainment. With very good framing the show believably recreates the 1980s. Showcasing period-appropriate cars, makeup, hairstyles, and even smaller details like the shape and labels on beer bottles are all present here. Every scene feels like it had thought put into it while the crew was filming. Nothing feels cheap or hastily shot. Although the show was well made, the main component that makes it memorable is the performance of Jessica Biel. She appears dialed in, brandishing a wig and a southern accent I haven’t heard from her before. As usual with Biel, she uses her face to reflect her character’s inner emotions and thoughts in a way not many actors can do. Her mannerisms and the way she says things are so detailed it makes me wonder how long her preparation for the role was. Her performance almost makes you feel sympathy for Candy when she finally tells her story of the crime, but the little nuances in her speech make you feel she might be lying at the same time.
The rest of the cast is very good as well. While Biel is the clear-cut MVP, Pablo Schreiber is also a terrific contribution and he uses his character’s sulky mood to contrast Biel’s nonstop energy in their shared scenes to offer a different tone as the show goes back and forth between two different timelines. Other than Biel and Schreiber’s performances the most important aspect of “Candy” is that I was never forced to suspend my disbelief. Everything that is presented in each scene feels grounded, and not exaggerated for entertainment’s sake. That’s not to say there weren’t times where I wondered how truthful the show was to the real-life incident it is based on, but separations between the real story and the recreation for the screen are always expected.