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SXSW 2023: Elizabeth Olsen, Jesse Plemons play ‘Red Hot Lovers’ in HBO original ‘Love & Death’

SXSW 2023: Elizabeth Olsen, Jesse Plemons play ‘Red Hot Lovers’ in HBO original ‘Love & Death’

SXSW 2023: Elizabeth Olsen, Jesse Plemons play ‘Red Hot Lovers’ in HBO original ‘Love & Death’
March 16
03:29 2023

Content Warning: this article contains spoilers and content related to violence and murder. 

AUSTIN, Texas — HBO’s DFW-based true crime series “Love & Death” premiered its first episode in the heart of Texas at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, with the cast and dozens of Texan volunteers in attendance.

Elizabeth Olsen, Jesse Plemons and Lily Rabe attend a Q&A session following the world premiere of “Love & Death” on March 11, 2023. Maddie Moore

“This is the perfect place to show our show for the very first time,” director Lesli Linka Glatter said on stage prior to the South by Southwest world premiere. “We made it here. It is a Texas story. I am a Texas human. To tell a story that is set here, shot here, I see so much of our Austin cast and crew here. […] For me, this is about a Texas town and the characters. I fell in love with all of them — but there is also a deep hole inside those characters.”

Based on a series of Texas Monthly articles entitled “Love and Death in Silicon Prairie,” and the book “Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs,” the upcoming HBO show centers around an affair that would lead to the grizzly 1980 ax murder of Betty Gore (Lily Rabe).

Episode one only hints at the destruction to come, and chooses to focus on characterizing the players.

“We do immerse ourselves in the town for two or three hours, and we as storytellers want to let the audience know this is going someplace — so pay attention,” writer David E. Kelley said during the Q&A. “These tiny little moments in the aggregator are going to add up to something.”

The premiere episode crosscuts between the lives of Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen) and Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons), Methodist Church of Lucas members who decide to pursue their sinful urges after colliding during a church-sponsored volleyball game.

David E. Kelley, Lesli Linka Glatter and Per Saari speak during a panel following the world premiere of “Love & Death” on March 11, 2023. Rose Wright

Sparks don’t fly — not really. Their relationship is stiff and contractual, which makes it all the more ironic when Allan gifts Candy a card reading “For the Last of the Red Hot Lovers” and invites her to begin their affair — no strings attached.

Despite the malice that follows, it’s difficult not to sympathize with the pair following scenes depicting their loveless marriages. Candy is a housewife whose dull routine consists of singing in the church choir, attending her creative writing class and cooking for her family. Her husband, Pat, would rather watch television than read Candy’s poetry, and Betty will only have sex with Allan while trying for their second child.

At its center, the episode is about loneliness.

“[We wanted] to be honest to the story and characters and have empathy for all of them — the humanity,” Glatter said. “There is a horrible true crime […] at the core of this, but we didn’t want it to be just a true crime genre drama. […] Yes, they had an affair, but they just wanted to be seen and heard.”

However, Glatter promised they “don’t let Candy off the hook” as the series progresses.

“Things are not what they appear to be,” Glatter said. “You have to go deeper to see what’s really going on. […] I think we really try to look more about how and why, rather than the what — how can this happen?”

By far the most impressive element of “Love & Death” is how rooted in Texas the story is. The showrunners expertly transfer the Texas Monthly articles from script to screen, throwing viewers into the small bible-belt town of Wylie, TX.

While liberties are taken with the depiction of the lives of these characters, a decent amount of dialogue is word for word what Allan and Candy are quoted to have said, according to the articles. Parts of the show were also filmed on location in central Texas cities — such as La Grange, San Marcos and Austin — giving it another layer of authenticity.

Though the premiere is a slow-burn into the real conflict, with its occasional humor and awkward affairs, Glatter wants audiences to know “there is a dark side to this story.”

“This is not all fun and cupcakes and red hot lovers,” Glatter said.

“Love & Death” will debut on HBO Max on April 27.

Madeleine’s rating: 3.75/5

Featured Image Lesli Linka Glatter (left), Per Saari, Patrick Fugit, Lily Rabe, Jesse Plemons and Elizabeth Olsen speak during a Q&A following the premiere of “Love & Death” at Paramount Theatre on March 11, 2023. Rose Wright

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Madeleine Moore

Madeleine Moore

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