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A perfect '80s housewife snaps in Hulu’s ax murder true crime series ‘Candy’

By Kate Feldman

Candy Montgomery and Betty Gore had everything they wanted: a husband, children, a house in their small Texas community. They bonded over car pools and church picnics, as ‘80s housewives are supposed to do. Then Candy killed Betty with an ax.

“Candy,” which premiered Monday on Hulu, tells the true story of the brutal murder that shook their close-knit town in 1980, when Gore’s brutalized body with 41 ax wounds unraveled a spiderweb of infidelity and expectations.

“These two women who were given everything that they were supposed to have to be happy … and they weren’t. You weren’t allowed to be unhappy if you had all of these things, so there was this constant emptiness that they didn’t know how to deal with,” showrunner Robin Veith told the Daily News.

“From childhood, you’re fed this restriction. You marry well, you have the children, you have the house and that’s it. You won at life. You weren’t really allowed to express want for more, so if you were somehow unhappy, it’s your fault. A lot of these women in this story, they’re not happy with the way that their life is but they’ll fight for their life to keep it.”

“Candy” spends its pilot on the fatal day, June 13, 1980, when Montgomery (Jessica Biel) drives around town running errands and Gore (Melanie Lynskey) stays home with her newborn, left alone once again when her husband goes out of town for work. There’s an immediate understanding that this is these women’s lives, day in, day out.

“I think she kept trying to take on too much, which is true for a lot of women,” Lynskey said of her character, who she believes was suffering from postpartum depression.

“You just keep saying ‘Yes’ and offering to do more and putting more on your plate until it’s like, ‘Hang on a second, I’m so overwhelmed that I just want to sit in a dark room for a day and cry.’ You don’t know when you’re heading to that point; you only know when you’re there.”

In Montgomery’s telling, and the one that the jury believed enough to acquit her on the basis of self-defense, she blacked out during the attack. She went into a “dissociative reaction,” her psychologist testified, a rage triggered by childhood trauma. Gore had found out about Montgomery’s affair with her husband, Allan, and confronted her friend. It didn’t matter that of the 41 blows delivered by the ax, 40 were made while Gore was still alive.

So “Candy” choreographed their fatal fight exactly as Montgomery described.

“We very specifically did Candy’s version of it,” Lynskey said. “We choreographed the story that she told in court, no added action or anything like that. There were things that didn’t make sense, frankly. It was hard to get from A to B.”

But the show spends less time on the how than the why; the actual attack isn’t seen onscreen until the final episode. Instead, it focuses on how the two women got there, both separately and together. How they found themselves alone, taking care of their children and their houses, because it never occurs to their husbands to help. How they sought comfort in others, Gore in a group called “Marriage Encounters” and Montgomery in Gore’s husband. How their community began to close in, to suffocate them, as their perfect happy lives disintegrated.

“I grew up there. It was called Kingsville, Maryland, not Wylie, Texas, but I grew up in that town. I know these people. They’re my parents, they’re my friends,” Veith told The News.

“I wanted to keep the feeling of the claustrophobia that comes with these wide-open spaces in the suburbs.”

Today, the real Montgomery is divorced, living under a different name and working as a mental health counselor. In a way, she escaped her claustrophobic life after all.

“There were different expectations at that time. Women got married and then everyone around them was like, ‘Great, now here comes the rest of her life. Your major moments have been hit. You got married and you had kids. Congratulations.’ They were in their 20s and it was crazy to think that that’s all the expectation was,” Lynskey told The News.

“There’s a lot of unfulfilled potential. There’s a lot of longing.”

———

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Dive Deeper:
How Jessica Biel landed husband Justin Timberlake for a 'perfect' cameo in 'Candy'
"Ms. Montgomery, did you kill Betty Gore?"
Surprise! Justin Timberlake is in 'Candy' with Jessica Biel
Viewers tuning in to Thursday’s episode of “Candy,” starring Jessica Biel, may recognize a familiar face: Biel’s husband Justin Timberlake
The true crime of Hulu's "Candy"
Retro appeal, strong performances and a smart critique on how society domesticates women lose steam by the end
Inside the grisly story of an axe killing that inspired new Hulu series ‘Candy’
As Jessica Biel and Elizabeth Olsen portray Candy Montgomery in two different TV shows, Clémence Michallon takes a look at…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are unrecognisable after epic makeover for new show
Justin Timberlake surprised fans by announcing his cameo appearance in the new crime drama Candy which is currently streaming on…
The Calamity of Unwanted Motherhood
Penelope Mortimer’s 64-year-old novel is a powerful argument for letting women choose when and whether they become a parent.
Get all your news in one place