FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN

Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon walk into a bar and sign a ‘yes’ for Ryan Murphy. Some months later, 7 Emmy nominations ––including both leads–– and unanimously rave reviews come flying through the exquisitely crafted set. Feud: Bette and Joan gits us with the guilty pleasure of seeing the why and how of the renowned rivalry between eternal camp icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

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Sarandon and Lange as Davis and Crawford on the set of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

Set in 1962, Feud begins with Crawfoard personally approaching the redhead thespian to be her co-star in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in hopes of getting her respect and keeping her career alive. (Cc: misogyny, ageism.) Davis eventually accepts because at 54, offers weren’t exactly piling up, either. And so, the divas embark on the shooting that resulted in the legendary feud the press would viciously thrive on, Hedda Hopper and all. However, the peak of this series is arguably the fifth episode, that infamous Oscar night where Davis loses for Baby Jane and Crawford maliciously accepts the award on behalf of Anne Bancroft while voting against her co-star to prevent her from becoming the first actor to ever receive three Academy Awards.

 

Jessica Lange is stellar and heart-wrenching as the ever-dissatisfied Crawford. The struggles of a loveless childhood and extenuating adulthood leave the “most beautiful girl in the world” anxiously unemployed. Likewise, Susan Sarandon gives one of her career’s best turns as the ambitious legend who once named Meryl Streep her “worthy successor.” Bossy because she could and miserable because she chose to, Davis worked relentlessly to stay artistically alive: she did theatre, film, television and even defiantly published an ad on a newspaper to get a part.

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Next Emmy winner Susan Sarandon?

Feud does justice to both divas, taking us into the ladies’ tragic truths with Ryan Murphy’s characteristic attention to detail. Judy Davis as the vile columnist Hedda Hopper, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Davis’s pal Olivia de Havilland and Kathy Bates are a treat and a casting triumph, offering some insight and gossip backstage for a documentary being made on Joan’s life. Script and direction excel, with the discrimination that came with being a woman in the 60s shining through every line with notable pain but not pity. The costume design is spot-on ––every fur, diamond and feather in place–– and production design hits the nail on the head. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it walked home with an Emmy.

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Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis) getting trash talk from Joan

All in all, although some of the more carping critics have slated its untangled nature, it remains true that few showrunners offer such variety of pleasures as Ryan Murphy and his associates. For its screenplay, cast and sheer attention to detail, I highly recommend this mesmerizing piece on the most timeless of Hollywood feuds.

Genre: Dark dramedy.

Original release: February 19 – April 2, 2017.

Country: United States.

Awards: 16 Emmy nominations.

Grade: A-

All images are taken from Google.

 

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