Review of Feud: Bette and Joan


Lucie Dumont, Reporter

When you combine the story of two legendary actresses of great stature like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford who are played by two other actresses of similar acclaim – Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, you get Feud. The first season of a series that documents famous squabbles in history talks about the bad blood between two of the greatest actresses that ever lived. Their feud is a very famous one, generated by the competition for significant roles in a business that prioritizes young, beautiful women to a fight for the most significant role ever – that of an Oscar winner.
The series begins at the 1961 Golden Globes with the camera on tipsy Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) who watches as hot new star Marilyn Monroe walks up to accept her award. The camera stays on Crawford as Monroe makes her speech (very clearly someone’s labored albeit exaggerated imitation). Crawford is originally depicted as a resentful ex-star who hates everything and everyone but she is soon (at least partially) redeemed – even with later mentions of her notoriously resentful adopted daughter Christina (future writer of Crawford exposé Mommie Dearest). It is a time that is past her hey day and as she gets older the people care less and less about her, something that can be extremely frustrating for someone of such talent. Desperate to find something substantial and Oscar-baiting to act in, Crawford falls upon a book titled What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, a horror story about two crazy ex-stars who are stuck on their past. Her goal is to get that second Oscar after her first win with Mildred Pierce. After she finds her director (Robert Aldrich played by Alfred Molina) we are introduced to Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon), who has moved onto the theatre and is a major component in Crawford’s return to the top. From the first words they utter to each other it’s clear that the two women are enemies and have been since day one when they have been constantly compared to one another. The rest of the series shows their clashing during the filming of the movie, and of course the ultimate destination for both – the Oscars.
Though neither Sarandon or Lange look particularly similar to Davis and Crawford their acting defies that flaw. Sarandon’s brassy voice and quick, snide remarks impersonate Davis’s character impeccably while Lange’s delicately resilient portrayal of Crawford makes you fear what she has in store if you cross her. The rest of the cast is star studded, with appearances with the likes of Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kathy Bates, and more.
Although some aspects of the show are admittedly sleazy, a pattern found in most of creator Ryan Murphy’s previous shows (Glee, American Horror Story, Scream Queens), it ultimately reaches an entertaining and sympathetic result that deals with the struggle of age for a woman in show business no matter their past. Feud is something anyone who is a fan of Hollywood and stellar acting (and actresses) will enjoy.

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