REVIEW: The Most Hated Woman in America (2017)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of The Most Hated Woman in America – Directed by Tommy O’Haver

The Most Hated Woman in America is a biographical drama about the life of Madalyn Murray O’Hair (played by Melissa Leo), an atheist activist, and her mysterious kidnapping and murder in 1995. The Most Hated Woman in America had a lot going for it. The cast is sublime. Melissa Leo, of course, is the lead actress, but the film has other noteworthy familiar faces like Juno Temple, Adam Scott, and Vincent Kartheiser.

It’s just a shame that they’re completely wasted in a biographical drama that I’m honestly shocked by, and not in a good way. Melissa Leo is the best thing about the film, but this project doesn’t deserve the talented cast or her performance in the film.

There is no sense of direction with this film. The Most Hated Woman in America is clumsily structured, and presented ineffectively and without a sense of order or story. It is such a disappointing biopic that mishandles what is, frankly, an interesting true story. I think there are plenty interesting angles this film could have used to tell the story.

The central kidnapping is the most interesting part of the story, and the film could’ve worked well if the filmmakers were comfortable settling for a black comedy angle with a no-nonsense woman at the center of the true story. The film also incorporates an unsettling amount of archived footage, and, to be honest with you, I would’ve much rather seen a documentary with unknown actors reconstructing the story.

O’Hair’s relationship with one of her sons – Bill Murray (played by Vincent Kartheiser) – also could’ve worked if it were the focus of the film, but Kartheiser and Leo barely interact. The filmmakers also throw in this other journalist-angle with Adam Scott’s character at the center of it. Again, it just doesn’t feel like the filmmakers knew what they wanted the film to be.

The film tries to go for most of these angles – obviously, excluding the straightforward documentary reconstruction – and ultimately settles for none of them. It causes the film to be absolutely uninteresting and boring, and if you’re not interested in the true story, then The Most Hated Woman in America is probably going to feel like a complete waste of time.

When The Most Hated Woman in America finally gets to its conclusion the big moment you’ve waited for feels almost glossed over. Don’t get me wrong, you see what happens to Madalyn Murray O’Hair, her granddaughter, and one of her sons, but the film doesn’t come together in a satisfying way. The Most Hated Woman in America is ineffective, clumsily structured, and, ultimately, not worth checking out.

4 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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