Love and Death

By Joanna Langfield

Elizabeth Olsen shines in this, the guiltiest of pleasures.

Drawn from the Texas Monthly investigation into a steamy and celebrated murder in 1980, this is the story of good Churchgoing folk, couples living what appears to be a classic suburban life. Until somebody has an affair. And somebody winds up dead. Chopped to death with an axe and left bleeding on the laundry room floor.

A stellar behind the scenes group of veterans (David E. Kelley, Lesli Linka Glatter and Nicole Kidman) craft an addictive miniseries out of what could and often does feel a bit tawdry and unseemly. After all, someone really died here. And some of us might feel just a little bit guilty passing the popcorn while watching it. But, as savvy a package as this is, I found myself unable to not just turn away, but happily pressing play on the next episode.

Not everything is perfect. A few characters, even well acted, get short shrift. And maybe a more serious take on all this could have been the stuff of a great tragedy, which this is not. But maybe the story itself isn’t, except for the murder, a tragedy after all. As we see it here, this is more the story of the self-involved and maybe the self-obsessed. There’s not a whole lot of loving one’s neighbor as yourself going on. Even if there is, in fact, some physical loving of one’s neighbor happening instead. Perhaps a tale as old as time, but here, very 1980’s.

Solid work from Lily Rabe, Tom Pelphrey, Patrick Fugit and Jesse Plemons but the real star is Elizabeth Olsen who, in practically every scene, vibrates with an energy that is both compelling and terrifying. It’s a terrific portrayal of a woman who is all too real.

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