The title alone should be enough to tip you off.
Wicked Love is salacious in tone, suggesting that this telemovie is going to make the most of the juicy details on the 2005 death of Melbourne woman Maria Korp. On that score, it doesn’t disappoint.
Rebecca Gibney stars as Korp, a woman who married a charismatic co-worker Joe Korp, only to become the victim of a love-affair triangle and left to die in the boot of a car. The story attracted headlines around the country, first as a missing persons case, then as an horrific murder attempt and finally as a controversial case about euthanasia.
As a true-life crime it hasn’t taken long for this to reach the screen. Many will remember the headlines, while others would surely be familiar with some of the key players and their families.
The script by Ellie Beaumont is based on a book by author Carly Crawford and directed by Ian Crawford.
It begins with the gruesome murder accompanied by a voice-over narration by Maria before backtracking to when the couple met.
Joe Korp (Vince Colosimo) brings flowers to his factory colleague, Maria, whose husband died two years earlier. She declines his constant advances until he whimsically proposes.
“Three months later, we were married,” explains Maria. “You couldn’t say no to Joseph. Nobody ever could. He was the most charming man in the world. And all he wanted was me.”
Another jump cut later and Joe springs a huge vacant block upon her. Another jump cut later and they have an ever huger Italianate mansion and a son.
“Time flies. Before we knew it, our little boy was eleven years old.”
The domineering Joe is next depicted meeting an internet date, Tania Herman (Maya Elliott), at the beginning of a one-year affair. Sex scenes cut to the chase, as do the two lovebirds. Maria, meanwhile becomes a woman filled with suspicion as her charismatic husband makes excuses for long absences and pays greater attention to his appearance.
The bulk of Wicked Love thrashes through the domestic turmoil of the lonely Maria Korp while Joe Korp leads a double life slipping into sex and swingers, literally. As he becomes more attached to Tania Herman, it is clear to both that Maria is in the way of their apparent true love.
A desperate Maria turns to telephone clairvoyant advice, even after she discovers the truth on the family computer. But she sticks with Joe.
By this point Maria has become a character of pity. Despite being told by her teenage daughter to leave Joe she insists she loves him. Exactly why is unclear -the key moment when she switched from being a disinterested colleague to becoming attracted to her future husband was omitted in the story’s first scenes. It is a crucial part of understanding her character and imbuing her with audience sympathy. Instead she comes across as foolish for staying with the man who she knows is constantly betraying her.
The casting of A-list stars Gibney and Colosimo is somewhat distracting, while Gibney’s narration may remind too many viewers of Julie Rafter from Packed to the Rafters (even the soundtrack is reminiscent). That Colosimo is so unlikeable as the villain here may well be a testament to his acting. Elliott does a convincing job as the alluring, if clumsy, mistress.
Produced by Playmaker Media and funded by Screen NSW, most of the action of this Victorian story has been filmed in Sydney. A handful of Melbourne locations punctuate the action, and while car number plates have been well masked some Melbourne viewers will likely nit-pick over the location doubling as the abandoned car outside the Shrine of Remembrance.
There is less depth to the central characters here than recent true life crimes such as The Killing of Caroline Byrne or The Society Murders. This script has too many cliches and the direction has bewilderingly included endless camera shots filmed on a dizzying angle.
When all is said and done this perfect tabloid story remains little more than the headlines for which it became famous. Sex, love, betrayal, murder are this telemovie’s hallmarks, while the death of an innocent woman, still raw to many, remains largely untold. Ultimately, it might well have been better left that way.
Wicked Love: The Maria Korp Story airs 8:30pm Sunday February 28 on Nine.