Review: Two women crime reporters track a serial killer in Hulu original film ‘The Boston Strangler’

Review: Two women crime reporters track a serial killer in Hulu original film ‘The Boston Strangler’

A true-crime story gets retold from the perspective of two women reporters who covered the case in “The Boston Strangler,” which premiered on Hulu.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley reviews ‘The Boston Strangler’

In 1968, Richard Fleischer (“Soylent Green”) directed an adaptation of Gerold Frank’s 1966 crime book “The Boston Strangler” starring Henry Fonda as a detective tracking down a serial killer played by Tony Curtis.

Now, the true-crime story gets retold from the perspective of the two women reporters who covered the case in “The Boston Strangler,” which premiered as a Hulu original film last Friday in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Based on an actual series of murders that sent shock waves through 1960s Boston, the film follows journalists Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), who first broke the story of The Boston Strangler, a notorious serial killer who used his victims’ stockings to tie neat bows around their necks after killing them.

While best known for action blockbusters like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” (2003), Knightley has proven her dramatic chops, earning Oscar nominations for “Pride & Prejudice” (2005) and “The Imitation Game” (2014). This time her face tells the story, nervously deciding whether to proceed into the backroom of a suspect’s home or flee back out the door, then trying to keep her composure when a stranger makes threatening calls to her home.

Coon is a formidable screen partner, having carried one of the greatest TV series ever in HBO’s “The Leftovers” (2014-2017). Her role in “The Boston Strangler” is inspired casting, combining the mystery of David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” (2014), where she played Ben Affleck’s twin sister, with the journalism of Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” (2017), where she played The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial editor Meg Greenfield.

Together, they form a sharp duo of investigative reporters, starting as mere newsroom acquaintances, and then bonding over shared empathy for the victims. In the final scene, they can sit at a bar, raise a glass and not say a word to each other, yet know exactly what the other is thinking. Their expressions say it all.

It’s refreshing to see two women cracking the case after a century of male screen detectives from Sam Spade to Philip Marlowe to Jake Gittes. I suppose you could say Jodie Foster worked with Kasi Lemmons to catch Buffalo Bill in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), proving that film was way ahead of its time, but most examples are sadly recent, such as Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan exposing Harvey Weinstein in the underrated “She Said” (2022).

The thematic subtext of “The Boston Strangler” is the extreme misogyny these reporters face. When their editor Jack MacLaine (Chris Cooper) says, “You don’t have a story, you have a grudge,” they fire back, “How many women have to die before it’s a story?” It’s a fair question. They have a right to hold a grudge after decades of male predators, wondering just how quickly it would become a front-page story if it were men being killed every day.

Here, the prime suspects include George Nassar and Albert DeSalvo, respectively played by Greg Vrotsos and David Dastmalchian, the latter of whom was an excellent red herring for Hugh Jackman to interrogate in “Prisoners” (2013), a masterpiece of the genre and still, to me, the best film by filmmaker Denis Villeneuve.

A female filmmaker might have added a fresh spin on the material with a “female gaze” to stand apart from countless past entries. Instead, writer/director Matt Ruskin will no doubt be unfairly compared to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Frenzy” (1972), which featured a similar plot of a necktie murderer. That film had some of the most iconic shots of all time, namely, a single-take down the staircase of a victim and out into a street of complicit bystanders.

It’s tough being compared to the G.O.A.T.

Even so, Ruskin still remains a talented filmmaker, having won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival for “Crown Heights” (2017) starring LaKeith Stanfield. In “The Boston Strangler,” he gets the mood right, the tone is effective, the atmosphere is freaky, but the script simply leaves us wanting more. Perhaps it would have been better fleshed out as a TV series like “True Detective” (2014). As is, the film ends on a less than satisfying note.

Conclusions don’t always need to have shocking twists like David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995), but even the ambiguous ending of “Zodiac” (2007) hinted with knowing mischief. Alas, not every serial-killer movie can be a Fincher home run, and “The Boston Strangler” is at least on the level of John Lee Hancock’s “The Little Things” (2021). That means true-crime fans will probably still enjoy it, even if regular folks don’t find it as compelling.

3.5 stars

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How a Fairfax Co. elementary school is teaching parents to support their students

How a Fairfax Co. elementary school is teaching parents to support their students

At one Fairfax County, Virginia, elementary school, parents are the ones in class to learn how to best support their students.


Parents at Lutie Lewis Coates Elementary School in Virginia take a class that teaches them how to connect with their children and their education. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)

On a large screen in the front of the library at Lutie Lewis Coates Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, an instructor posed a question to the 20 parents in the room on Thursday night.

“What is the internet?” the teacher asked in Spanish.

The group also discussed the difference between a laptop and desktop computer, and what digital literacy is.

The gathering was the latest installment of what the school calls the Coates Family Academy, which aims to teach parents how to best support their students and learn more about how to engage with their children’s education.

The group, which organizers said usually ranges from 15 to 20 parents, participates in weekly evening classes. The night starts with a meal, and while parents are in class, students either do homework, read to older kids from a nearby middle school or participate in a hip-hop dance class.

Nonprofit Edu-Futuro, which is involved in programming across Northern Virginia, funds various aspects of the academy. Principal Paul Basdekis said the program empowers parents to be more involved.

“They become better advocates for their children,” Basdekis said. “They become the role models at home, because the kids see them learning along, side by side.”

The school’s family liaison, Solangie McPherson, started the academy two years ago, anticipating it would be helpful at the school, where almost half of students are English language learners, the county said.

She noticed parents needed to learn things like how to volunteer, how to understand the curriculum and how to communicate with teachers and school administrators. Thursday night’s lesson was about technology.

All of the classes are held in Spanish, though McPherson said she wants future iterations to include other languages.

And, she said, parents do often get homework assignments, which range from worksheets to activities that can be completed as a family.

The classes, McPherson said, have been eye-opening for the school’s families. In some sessions, the parents learn basics, like how to fill out forms or what to ask for during a parent-teacher conference.

“They didn’t know they could do so many different things with [their kids],” McPherson said. “Working with them at home, creating rules … how to be an active parent in school.”

Brian Galindo said he’s become a regular at the Thursday sessions, and attends so he can learn how to better communicate with his kids.

“I want to be able to understand them, listen to them,” Galindo said. “And also let them know that we’re here for them.”

The parents have told McPherson that the classes boost their confidence, and their students are noticing it too.

At the end of the year, McPherson is hoping to plan a field trip to celebrate the current group’s accomplishments. And they expect to have a graduation ceremony, too.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” McPherson said. “It doesn’t matter what language you speak. We are here in the school and we speak just one language, right? We are here to help our kids and to be involved.”

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Nebraska trans health bill advances, despite filibuster vow

Nebraska trans health bill advances, despite filibuster vow

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Legislature voted Thursday to advance a contentious bill that would ban gender-affirming care for…

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Legislature voted Thursday to advance a contentious bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors, despite threats from some lawmakers that they would filibuster the rest of the session.

The vote came on the third day of debate, in which lawmakers angrily accused one another of hypocrisy and a lack of collegiality early on. By Thursday, the chamber had turned somber as some lawmakers opposed to the bill broke down in tears and pleaded with their Republican colleagues to reconsider their support for the bill.

“I can’t stop thinking about the parents,” Sen. John Fredrickson said through sobs before reading a letter from a constituent who said her son would have likely taken his own life if he had not been able to get gender-affirming care as a teen.

Fredrickson, the first openly gay man elected to the Nebraska Legislature, expressed his heartbreak at not being able to change the outcome of the vote.

“To my LGBTQ family … regardless of what happens today, heads up. Chins up. We’re survivors,” he said.

Members of the LGBTQ community who had gathered in the Capitol to protest the bill showed their displeasure with the outcome, booing and cursing lawmakers who voted to advance it as they left the legislative floor.

“I am a ball of rage,” said Wrenn Jacobson, 29, of Lincoln, after the vote. “I’ve had to go back to therapy when this bill was introduced. I know so many people — so many kids — who will be hurt by this.”

“They come for the kids first,” Jacobson said. “Then they’ll come for the adults.”

With the bill’s advancement, Omaha Sens. Megan Hunt and Machaela Cavanaugh promised to filibuster every bill that comes before lawmakers for the rest of the 90-day session. By the end of Thursday’s debate, other lawmakers had vowed to join that effort, including Omaha Sen. Jen Day and Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad.

Hunt took to the floor of the Legislature on Wednesday to confess that the debate is deeply personal for her, because her teenage son is transgender. She called the bill an affront to her as a parent and called out by name lawmakers she would hold accountable if they vote to advance it.

“If this bill passes, all your bills are on the chopping block, and the bridge is burned,” she said. “I’m not doing anything for you. Because this is fake. This has nothing to do with real life. This is all of you playing government.”

The proposal had caused tumult in the legislative session long before debate began on it earlier this week. It was cited as the genesis of a nearly three-week, uninterrupted filibuster carried by Cavanaugh, who followed through on her vow in late February to filibuster every bill before the Legislature — even those she supported — declaring she would “burn the session to the ground over this bill.”

She stuck with it until an agreement was reached late last week to push the bill to the front of the debate queue. Instead of trying to eat time to keep the bill from getting to the floor, Cavanaugh decided she wanted a vote to put on the record which lawmakers would “legislate hate against children.”

The Nebraska bill, along with another that would ban trans people from using bathrooms and locker rooms or playing on sports teams that don’t align with the sex listed on their birth certificates, are among roughly 150 bills targeting transgender people that have been introduced in state legislatures this year.

Bans on gender-affirming care for minors have already been enacted several other Republican-led states, including Arizona, South Dakota, Utah and Mississippi. Arkansas and Alabama have bans that were temporarily blocked by federal judges.

Other states legislatures have given final approval to measures similar to the Nebraska bill, with Georgia sending a bill that would ban most gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapies for transgender minors to the governor Tuesday. In Kansas, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly last week vetoed a similar bill. The attorney general in Missouri issued an order earlier this week to limit access to gender-affirming care for minors.

The Nebraska bill, introduced by freshman Republican Sen. Kathleen Kauth, would outlaw gender-affirming therapies such as hormone treatments, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for those 18 and younger. The purpose of the bill, she has said, is to protect youth from undertaking gender-affirming treatments they might later regret as adults, citing research that says adolescents’ brains aren’t fully developed.

That position overlooks the damage taking away the option of treatments will have on teens, said 17-year-old Elliott Braatz, of Lincoln. Braatz, a transgender boy, took a day off from school to hold signs protesting the bill. He said lawmakers supporting the bill aren’t taking into account that “the trans suicide rate is horrifying.”

“I’m very scared,” he said. “This bill says to people like me: ‘You’re trans, and that’s not OK.’”

That fear was echoed by several lawmakers, including Day, who wept as she read from an email sent Wednesday to all lawmakers by a clinical psychologist in Lincoln who said calls to the clinic from trans teens reporting feeling suicidal have jumped significantly in the past week. The psychologist warned that voting to advance the bill “will result in the deaths of transgender and gender diverse adolescents, likely before the end of the school year.”

“I want all of you to go into the rotunda and look into the eyes of those parents and tell them that you’re voting for this bill knowing that it could potentially kill their child,” Day said through sobs.

The bill advanced on a 30-17 vote, with two lawmakers not voting. Although bills can advance with a simple majority, it takes 33 votes to end debate to overcome a filibuster. The Nebraska Legislature is currently made up of 32 registered Republicans and 17 registered Democrats — just enough for the minority to block bills they don’t like if they stick together.

In this case, Democratic Sen. Mike McDonnell voted with Republicans to end debate and later voted to advance the bill.

“There’s a world of difference between 9 and 19,” he said. “I think adult decisions should be made by adults.”

The bill will have to survive two more rounds of debate to pass in the unique one-house, officially nonpartisan Legislature. Republican Gov. Jim Pillen has said he will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

© 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Police searching for suspect in Woodbridge rape

Police searching for suspect in Woodbridge rape

A 33-year-old man is wanted in connection with the sexual assault of a woman who fell asleep during a gathering at an apartment in Woodbridge.

Alphonso Page of no fixed address is wanted on a rape charge, Prince William County Police 1st Sgt. Jonathan Perok said in a news release.

The 25-year-old victim called police March 18 at 8:54 a.m. reporting she fell asleep at a gathering in the 14100 block of Cove Landing Drive in Woodbridge and woke to an unknown man sexually assaulting her, Perok said.

The man left the apartment and the victim contacted police.

Detectives were able to identify the suspect as Alphonso Page and obtained a warrant for his arrest on March 23. Attempts to locate him have been unsuccessful. Perok said

Page is known to frequent the Arlington and Alexandria areas of Northern Virginia, southeast Washington D.C., and Prince George’s County in Maryland.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts his whereabouts is asked to contact Prince William County police at 703-792-6500 or your local police department.

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Deputies say PE teacher, coach had inappropriate contact with 12-year-old boy in Frederick County, Va.

Deputies say PE teacher, coach had inappropriate contact with 12-year-old boy in Frederick County, Va.

FREDERICK COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — A middle school teacher and basketball coach turned herself in to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office after deputies investigated claims that she had inappropriate contact with a 12-year-old boy.

The sheriff’s office said Emily Walker teaches Physical Education and coaches basketball at Frederick County Middle School. Walker is accused of having contact with the student, who is 13 years old now, on more than one occasion.

Investigators said they found evidence of hundreds of text messages between Walker and the student that spanned the course of several weeks. The messages supposedly indicated “an escalation in expectations of physical contact.”

The sheriff’s office said Walker and the boy also met on more than one occasion on school property and kissed.

Deputies said the charge against Walker is Taking Indecent Liberties with a Child.

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High school aide accused of sexual encounter with boy in Frederick County, Va.

High school aide accused of sexual encounter with boy in Frederick County, Va.

FREDERICK COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Sheriff’s deputies said a man who works as a high school teacher’s aide is accused of having a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old boy.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that the alleged encounter between Matthew Geyer and the student was consensual. Investigators said Geyer, who works at Sherando High School, met the student through a social media app a few months ago. They added that the supposed encounter between Geyer and the 16-year-old did not take place on school property.

The sheriff’s office said the charge against Geyer was Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. As of Thursday, Geyer was at the county’s adult detention center with no bond.

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