Made the same year as the Nick Broomfield documentary The Selling of a Serial Killer, though presumably after it, since there is talk of the movie rights in the doco, this TVM is the tale of a woman who graduated from being a career criminal and prostitute to the first American female serial killer, accused of killing 7 men in Florida.
The strength of this treatment is in the performance of Jean Smart as Aileen, also known as Lee, who is intense and makes odd choices to reveal Aileen's state of mind. She maniacally cleans a crashed car she and hotel maid Tyria Moore (Park Overall) are in, to remove fingerprints and blood as she does in the killings, she is jealous "mean" to Tyria's visiting sister Amy (TC Warner), screams after Tyria cannot be found in their hotel room, fearful when seeing news of the police hunt for her on television, makes one of those cliched waking-from-a-nightmare scenes work for once, and even survives a scene where she dances alone wildly in a pub and is made to see her girlhood reflection in the mirror.
Aileen's lesbianism is white-washed here as her being an "older sister" and "the best friend I ever had" to Tyria, and although we see how alcohol alters Aileen's behaviour, we get the standard explaination that her hatred of men, disguised behind provocatism, stems from child abuse. However Smart also makes Aileen's feeling "lost" vulnerable, with a stunned response to men that are nice to her. In the killings we are shown and the aural flashbacks, Aileen's victims are insulting to her (they all call her "baby" and "whore"), and her pathologically angry response explains the title, a police term describing the excess of her gun shooting. Aileen's future is also made more bleak when she "drifts" away from Tyria, and the second half of the narrative focuses on the police efforts to arrest her, since it is her believed her drifting will inevitably result in another killing.
The teleplay by Fred Mills has Aileen confess to being "crazy", someone who "doesn't know how to be, sometimes", who justifies her actions by saying that the men who "came to her like flies on crap" "messed" with her. Mills presenting Aileen as a humanitarian, giving money to a homeless person, is inexplicable, though a parallel is made where she hands over the proceeds of the post murder robberies to Tyria, and the duplicity of Tyria as a witness against Aileen has less of an impact than it does in the Broomfield.
But while Mills stoops to Tyria explaining Aileen as a hooker as "It's just what she does, not who she is" and later Tyria "I knew it would come to this", he also provides some laugh lines. A policeman tells us that when women kill, they kill people they know, not strangers - "They murder their husbands. They murder their lovers. They murder their husband's lovers", and a pickup tells Aileen "I had an easier time in Nam than I do with most women". Mills also uses flashbacks of Aileen's past which director Peter Levin improves with tinted lighting and bold use of colour, a Santa with a southern accent, the song Crazy on a jukebox, and the police holding a meeting on a beach.
Levin cuts from the discovery of one dead body to a child screaming at a party, and from a police image of Aileen's thumbprint to Aileen using her thumb to make a jukebox choice, uses It's a Wonderful Life on TV, dirt on the camera and the car coming at us in the opening crash, but also an unnecessary reflected prison wire pattern on Smart's face for a telephone conversation.
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