(director: Mary Harron; screenwriters: Guinevere Turner/inspired by a book by Ed Sanders &Karlene Faith; cinematographer: Crille Forsberg; editor: Andrew Hafitz ; music: Keegan DeWitt ; cast: Suki Waterhouse (Mary Brunner), Matt Smith (Charles Manson), Kimmy Shields (Vicki), Marianne Rendón (Susan Atkins), Hannah Murray (Leslie Van Houten), Chace Crawford (Tex Watson), Merritt Wever (Karlene Faith), Grace Van Dien (Sharon Tate), Annabeth Gish (Virginia Carlson), Sosie Bacon (Patricia Krewinkel), Bridget Zadina (Paul Watkins), Sol Rodriguez (Gloria), Kayli Carter (Squeaky Fromme), Matt Riedi (Police Chief Davis), India Ennenga (Linda Kasabian); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Cindi Rice/Jeremy Rosen/Dana Guerin/John Frank; IFC Films; 2018)
“It might be a thoughtful exercise in tasteful filmmaking but never digs too deep into why the floundering flower girls were brainwashed by Manson to commit such grizzly crimes.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Canadian filmmaker Mary Harron (“I Shot Andy Warhol”/”American Psycho”) directs and Guinevere Turner writes the screenplay for this plodding shocker cult group murder spree from America’s past. It revisits the infamous Manson (Matt Smith) family in their killing spree days and afterwards in prison.
It tells the story from the viewpoint of the ladies, therefore has some credentials. It might be a thoughtful exercise in tasteful filmmaking but never digs too deep into why the floundering flower girls were brainwashed by Manson to commit such grizzly crimes. This shallow expose can’t be the final response that clears the air for explaining such evil acts, at least for me it doesn’t. The narrative is built around the perspectives of three women: Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón), Patricia Krewinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), who were sentenced to death for the Manson murders but their sentences were reduced to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty. In the pre-murder days (the murder spree started in the summer of 1969) we observe the cult on Spahn Ranch, in California, absorbed by the failed musician sicko cult leader Manson’s rants about race wars and his radical ideology of free love, and are brainwashed into killing for him. Van Houten is the tour guide, who completely bought into Charles Mansion’s rants, who shows us how the manipulative psycho trained the girls to be his slaves.
Then we see the three women as inmates in a California prison, where a concerned graduate studentnamed Karlene Faith (Merrit Wever, the writer of the book with Ed Sanders, that inspired the film) visits them regularly and gets them to see the light to begin a rehabilitation process.
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019 GRADE: C+