Merricat, Constance and their Uncle Julian live in isolation after experiencing a family tragedy six years earlier. When cousin Charles arrives to steal the family fortune, he also threatens a dark secret they've been hiding.
Three young women were sentenced to death in the infamous Manson murder case, but when the death penalty was lifted, their sentence became life imprisonment. One young graduate student was sent in to teach them - and through her we witness their transformations as they face the reality of their horrific crimes.Written by
"Charlie Says" (2018 release; 101 min.) brings the story of the Charles Manson murders, but this time for the perspective of the three "Manson women" involved in the killings. As the movie opens, one of the women is taking a shower, the blood coming off of her hair and body. We then go the "3 Years Later", and we see the three women in jail at the California Institution for Women, on a separated wing with just the three of them: Lulu, Sadie and Katie. A graduate student at UC Santa Cruz is given the opportunity to teach these three some classes. When then go back in time, to when Leslie (later named Lulu by Manson) arrives at the remote ranch where Mason and his entourage live... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from Canadian director Mary Herron, who previously brought us the worthwhile "I Shot Andy Warhol" and, even better, "American Psycho". Here she revisits the events that are often referred to as "having ended the 60s" (the murders took place in August, 1969). The film is based on several books, including the one written by the graduate student on specifically Leslie/Lulu, but there are certainly additional source materials on the Manson women. Indeed the eternal question seems to be: are these women victims themselves? are they just part of the gang that committed these vicious killings? The movie attempts to address that, and while at times it shows promise, in the end the movie lacks depth and what we are stuck with is something that certainly isn't a bad movie, but given the underlying facts, it feels more like a missed opportunity. Leslie/Lulu is played with conviction by up-and-coming British actress Hannah Murray. Manson is played by Matt Smith as if he's Jim Morrison (check out Smith instead in that other recent indie movie "Mapplethorpe"). Beware: there is a fair amount of nudity in the film, so if that is a concern for you, better stay away and check out another film.
"Charlie Says" premiered at last Fall's Venice film festival to ho-hum reaction, and is now getting a limited US theater release. It opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend for just a one week run. The early Sunday evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (7 or 8 people). Maybe this will find a larger audience as it is launched on other platforms. If you have any interest in the Manson murders, and in particular the women that were involved in it, I suggest you check this out, be it in the theater (unlikely), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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