This year we’re getting not one, but three Charles Manson movies. There’s of course Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, that bizarre Hilary Duff Sharon Tate movie opening next month, and then one that sounds like a dream we once had: a Mary Harron movie about the Manson girls.
The cultural fascination around the cult leader has often focused on the mysterious intrigue of Manson himself, or on the gory details of the infamous 1969 murders. But what about the women at the center of Manson’s cult? Charlie Says, directed by Harron from a script by her American Psycho co-writer Guinevere Turner, is all about the three young women involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders. Initially sentenced to death, the three were eventually committed to life in prison when the California death penalty was overturned.
The first trailer for Charlie Says finds Leslie Van Houten (Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray), Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón) and Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) all behind bars. Through a series of conversations with Merritt Wever’s Karlene Faith—a real-life a criminology professor who went on to write a book about Van Houten, which the film is partially based on—the women reflect on their crimes. And then there’s Manson, played by Matt Smith in what could be excellent or terrible casting. Based on the trailer, it’s hard to say which. The brief moments we do see of his cult leader are relatively muted for such a role. Then again, if Manson proved to be the least interesting element in a film made by women all about the experiences of the women he recruited and brainwashed, that’s hardly a bad thing.
After spending the past several years directing for TV, this also marks an exciting return to the big screen for Harron. We can only hope it proves to be worth the wait. Charlie Says, which also stars Suki Waterhouse and Chase Crawford, hits theaters on May 10.