Dir.: Jo Berlinger; Cast: Lily Collins, Zac Efron, Kaya Scodelario, Angela Sarafyan, John Malkovich; USA 2018, 110 min.
Director Joe Berlinger is sort of a Ted Bundy specialist, his semi-documentary multi-part Netflix series Conversation with a Killer – The Ted Bundy Tapes was pretty much a disaster but not such an overwhelming failure as Extremely Wicked. Based on the memoirs of Elizabeth Kendall The Phantom Prince – My Life with Ted Bundy, Berlinger attempts to view Bundy through the eyes of his victim – we wish.
The re-construction narrative starts in 1969 when Kendall (Collins) and Bundy Efron) meet in a student bar in Seattle. Kendall is a single mum and Bundy wins her heart early on, caring for daughter Molly. But her excitement is short-lived when she sees a photofit of Bundy in the local paper. Her friend Joanna (Sarafyan) tries to convince her the guy is clearly not a keeper, to put it mildly, but love is blind. Brady was accidentally pulled up for a traffic violation in 1975, having committed more murders in Utah after he left Seattle in 1974. In 1976 he was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to fifteen years. He escaped twice from the police, before he was tried for his last two murders in Florida. Crucially, the trial was the first to be shown on TV and lasted from June 25th to July 31st 1979. Judge Edward Cowart (Malkovich) spars with Bundy, and with Kendall more or less written out of the picture, Berlinger turns his focus to Bundy’s self defence (having been sacked by his lawyers) and his relationship with Carol Anne Boone (Scodelario) who he marries, after proposing to her in court. We later we watch the couple having sex and conceiving a baby daughter. Meanwhile the prison guard gleefully counts his money.
Far from shedding any light on the Kendall/Bundy relationship, Berlinger’s thrust is to offer an entertaining court room farce, where Bundy and Cowart enjoy an intellectual set-to. Efron, like Mark Harmon before him in The Deliberate Stranger, is out to show Bundy’s charming facade – but nothing more. By the time he wheels on Bundy’s mother Louise to defend her son, Berlinger has long opted out of any serious consideration. AS
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