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Charlie Says
Nobody / O Culto de Manson

USA 2018
produced by
Dana Guerin, Cindi Rice, Jeremy M. Rosen, John Frank Rosenblum, Michael Guerin (executive), David Hillary (executive), Matthew Rhodes (executive), Ed Sanders (executive) for Epic Level Entertainment, Roxwell Films
directed by Mary Harron
starring Hannah Murray, Matt Smith, Sosie Bacon, Marianne Rendón, Merritt Wever, Suki Waterhouse, Chace Crawford, Annabeth Gish, Kayli Carter, Grace Van Dien, Bridger Zadina, Julia Schlaepfer, Dayle McLeod, Morgan Melton, India Ennenga, Aria Taylor, Cameron Gellman, Christopher Frontiero, Jeremy Lawson, James Trevena-Brown, John Gowans, Dillon Lane, Bryan Adrian, Lindsay Farris, Nathan Sutton, Tony Armatrading, Christopher Gerse, Aidan Walsh, Jackie Joyner, Dan Olivo, Darien Sills-Evans, Matt Riedy, Anthony Traina, Tracy Perez, Kim Yarbrough, Kimberly Gikas, Blaine Gray, Aaron Leddick, Kimmy Shields, Sol Rodriguez, Danya LaBelle, Adria Baratta, John Frank Rosenblum, Abigail Hunt, Michelle Benish, Maddie Carlin, Daniel Holloway, Ky Mahone, Emily Taplin
screenplay by Guinevere Turner, based on the book The Family by Ed Sanders, music by Keegan DeWitt

Charles Manson

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Leslie (Hannah Murray) is a relatively new addition to Charles Manson's (Matt Smith) Family residing at the Spahn ranch, and she's taken in pretty much immediately by the messages of love, of giving up one's ego for the greater good and the like, and thus she's quick in giving up all her money to Manson, to renounce all reading except the bible, and ultimately in worshipping Manson as her master. By the time Leslie joins, Manson has of course long figured out how to brainwash naive young girls, but their worship has in turn made him believe he's infallible. Still, back when Manson was a bit of a celebrity in hippie circles, and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson was a good friend of his - so much so that he and his band recorded two songs with Manson, who's also a singer-songwriter. Eventually, Wilson introduces Manson to record producer Terry Melcher (Bryan Adrian). Manson soon persuades Melcher to let him audition, but when Melcher comes by to hear Manson play, Manson has nothing to offer but some mediocre hippie folk, accompanied by a weird yet unexciting backing performance by some of his girls. Melcher politely declines. From here on, Manson's world grows darker, and he talks about the black uprising, that he and his family are to sit out in a cave, and once the blacks have erradicated all the white folks above ground, Manson and company will rise from the cave to lead them because "the blacks can't lead themselves." The obvious racism in that "prediction" is lost on his family. Eventually, his plan is to commit a series of murders and blame the black community - but it might be less than a coincidence that for the first murder he chooses Terry Melcher's home ... not knowing Melcher doesn't live there anymore but Roman Polanski (absent) and his pregnant wife Sharon Tate (Grace Van Dien) - and the family slaughter her and whoever's present at her house mercilessly. Leslie doesn't accompany the gang at this murder spree, but insists on being a part of their visit to the LaBiancas (Jackie Joyner, Dan Olivo), where she proves to be just as ruthless and brutal as the rest of them.

A second narrative level/framing device shows Leslie in prison with fellow family members Katie (Sosie Bacon) and Sadie (Marianne Rendón), where dedicated social worker Karlene (Merritt Wever) tries to break through their brainwashing and make them see the brutality of their crimes.

 

One just can't deny, in several instances, Charlie Says is just too blunt, over-simplifies, and loses itself in stereotypes - which is especially true to the framing device with the social worker. Where Charlie Says is good though is presenting the life on the ranch, where Charles Manson is presented as a charming yet very fallible leader who's gradually pushed more and more over the edge and he's determined to take those around him with him - and Matt Smith's performance is certainly spot on. In all, this might by no means be a perfect movie about the Manson clan, but an interesting one nonetheless.

 

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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD