Box Office Avoidant: Our Review of ‘Boston Strangler’

Posted in Disney +, What's Streaming? by - March 18, 2023
Box Office Avoidant: Our Review of ‘Boston Strangler’

Debuting this weekend on Disney + in Canada is the Hulu film production based on the true story behind the reporters who first connected the dots behind the Boston Strangler murders, Boston Strangler. Writer/Director Matt Ruskin (known primarily for his 2017 Sundance award-winning film Crown Heights) uses the true story of Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole’s investigative journalism to explore not just familiar ‘true crime’ story points and familiar newspaper-based film tropes, but also uses the platform to delve into some of the gender dynamics of the age. Eschewing a theatrical release, the film still manages to project a big screen feel and the budget was undoubtedly not minimized.

Not happy being relegated to the lifestyle section of the Boston Record-American, Loretta McLaughlin (Kiera Knightly) watches the investigative journalists in the office with some envy. But after investigating a string of murders, Loretta notices a pattern the police do not and bugs her editor Jack Maclaine (Chris Cooper) to allow her to further investigate, even if it’s on her own time. But once her investigation starts uncovering real connections between the cases, Jack puts veteran reporter Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) on the case to work with Loretta.

At first, Loretta is reluctant to accept Jean. But she soon comes to realize that Jean is invaluable in teaching her not just ways to investigate, but how to navigate the misogynistic aftereffects her reporting incurs. The police are no closer to finding a killer until Detective Conley (Alessandro Nivola) recognizes the work the two ladies have done and agrees to share information to help the investigation. After much work and many more attacks, the police arrest a suspect Albert DeSalvo (David Dastmalchian), who confesses. But soon after questions arise as to whether they have the right man.

Set 60 years ago, Boston Strangler is so far removed from the current setting that generations of people won’t necessarily recognize the surroundings on the screen. It truly was a different era as evidenced by a lack of any diversity in the workplace and a clear divide between what women were even allowed to do. It was a time when lifestyle sections of a newspaper weren’t only about events and art, but etiquette and housekeeping. Into this environment barrels Knightly’s Loretta, determined to be taken seriously and as bull-headed and determined as any or more of her male counterparts. Boston Strangler delves into the effects this has on her home life as well, as her once supportive husband James (Morgan Spector) starts to resent her determination towards something else outside of their household. But sadly the film only takes a few stabs into this dynamic and just hints at the crumbling of Loretta and James’ marriage without fully resolving it in any way.

Knightly is certainly up for the task here, and she and Carrie Coon share some real chemistry on screen together. The film works well within the contexts of them working the beat and developing the story. Ruskin also attempts to show the effect that their efforts have at work, with the ladies being asked to pose for photos to accompany their articles, something most of their male counterparts do not need to be concerned about. But as much as the queen of period dramas Ms. Knightly does well here, she is outshone by Coon many times throughout. The tough-as-nails Jean seems to have been a role Coon was born to play and she attacks it with aplomb. The rest of the cast does fine work here as well, but I should point out Rory Cochrane as rumpled and weathered Detective DeLine, the office who stumbles upon the evidence that might confirm the ‘multiple killers’ theory later forwarded by Loretta and Jean. It’s a short appearance, but Cochrane is every inch the role, proving yet again why he may be one of our most underappreciated character actors working today.

A film that easily could have been released theatrically for a respectable box office return, Boston Strangler is still a little light and less impactful than other journalism-based films of recent years like The Post, Spotlight, or even last year’s She Said. And perhaps that’s why it makes its bow on streaming. But there is more than enough here to recommend this film to all audiences now that it has debuted. Strong performances and excellent production design highlight this true-crime tale that should be just enough to satisfy most audiences, but the potential for more was certainly still left short.

  • Release Date: 3/17/2023
This post was written by
"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');