Friday, March 17, 2023

Boston Strangler: Movie Review

Misogyny and crime collide in an interesting story.
Keira Knightley in a period piece drama about a progressive woman and based on a true story – this is her bread and butter. It’s also my bread and butter. The fact that it’s also a dark story (literally about a serial killer) and includes some detective elements helps round this movie out into a very interesting story and fascinating watch.   2023

Directed by: Matt Ruskin

Screenplay by: Matt Ruskin

Starring: Keira Knightley

Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) is a journalist working for The Boston Record American, except journalist is a much fancier title than what her job actually entails. She gets to write about how well a toaster works to recommend to housewives to buy; she hates it. She’s been reading in her paper about a woman who was strangled, and another one, and another one. That’s odd, maybe there’s a connection? Impossible to know. If the police say there’s a connection, then there’s a connection. If the police don’t say there’s a connection, then there isn’t a connection. And she’s a woman she couldn’t possibly know anything about crimes.

This is 1962 and the misogyny of the time greatly shapes the movie and of course the real story it’s based on. Loretta’s boss at least hired her, so he’s not opposed to women working, but he also doesn’t think she has any ability to report on a real story – crime is a real story. She offers to do any investigating and writing on her own time, he agrees, but only because it will shut her up. Nobody thinks there’s a story here, and if there was, it certainly wouldn’t be a woman who could uncover it.

The film covers the changing times of the 60s really well. Loretta is married with kids. Her husband James (Morgan Spector) is proud that she’s a working woman and has no problem with sharing the household duties. Their housewife neighbours not so much, but they just shrug off their disapproving condescension. Loretta and James only start disagreeing when her coverage of the Boston Strangler has made her famous and her picture appears in the paper and it makes a whole lot of people angry that she would like to solve the series of women being murdered. When the harassing phone calls start, James wants her to stop, Loretta is confused. She’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself, she doesn’t need a man telling her how to do her job.

The film does include some scenes of the murders which adds a lot of suspense and darkness to a story of about crime journalism in the early 60s. The next big aspect is the police. Unsurprisingly, the police are some of the most misogynistic people in the whole movie and have no intention of helping Loretta do her job, and when Loretta starts piecing together more than they do, they would rather shut her up and have the Boston Strangler continue to murder women rather than solving the case. Except Alessandro Nivola’s Detective Conley, he has to walk the fine line between helping Loretta because he’s not a misogynistic asshole and keeping his job.

Boston Strangler plays out mostly as expected, but it’s an interesting story propelled by a fantastic lead character that I would hope most viewers could get something out of this.

One of the Best of 2023