Monday, March 06, 2017

My Review of Feud: Bette And Joan's: "Pilot"

Written by Jaffe Cohen & Michael Zam & Ryan Murphy
Directed by Ryan Murphy

Olivia de Havilland: "Feuds are never about hate. Feuds are about pain."

It seems that in the last six years that Ryan Murphy has really found himself fond of the anthology route for his shows. American Horror Story has grown within it's success while The People V. OJ Simpson was a successful move for the American Crime Story series. Now, it's time for a good old Feud, featuring two former Hollywood icons and that one movie they made back in 1962.

Reunited with Murphy, Jessica Lange steps back into the television as ageing Joan Crawford while Susan Sarandon also steps into the Murphy television fold as Bette Davis and while neither actress attempts to take on the accents of the infamous women they're portraying, there is a lot of fun to be had within the first episode of this eight part series.

Largely told from the points of views of two other actresses - Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Joan Blondell (Kathy Bates), the rivalry between Joan and Bette is pretty legendary that if it weren't for their lagging careers, they probably would've never agreed to have done cult favourite, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane with Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) agreeing to directing the movie with the warring pair.

A large part of the feud that's implied with the pairing seemed to be how the other was perceived by Hollywood. Davis was seen as something of a character actor while Crawford had to work a little harder for the same recognition. Within the first few minutes of the movie, Crawford is fairly scornful of the sex symbol status afforded to Marilyn Monroe while she struggled to find a compelling role for an older woman before pitching Baby Jane to Aldrich.

Having Joan also be the one to get Bette interested in the role (the latter finding her career stagnating in a Broadway production) was an interesting move along with the women doing the initial publicity and contract signings for their respective roles before actually working on the movie. I also got a bit of a laugh seeing the pair mutually antagonise one another on the set of the movie as well, though Bette clearly is better at getting one over on her co-star.

One of the best scenes of the first episode was the little dinner scene at the end. Seeing Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis) trying to goad the pair into trashing each other and having Bette and Joan refuse to take the bait was a nice way of showing the somewhat complex side of the pair's rivalry. Even if the pair loathed each other as individuals, they did seem to have some respect for each other as professionals.

- The title sequence appropriately enough takes in plenty of moments from Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. I love that Bette wore one of Joan's old wigs for the movie.
- Other characters who got a little screen time in this episode included Stanley Tucci's horribly sexist executive Jack L. Warner as well as Bette's daughter, B.D Hyman (Kiernan Shipka) and Joan's maid Mamacita (Jackie Hoffman).
- We saw some moments from All About Eve (Davis) and Autumn Leaves (Crawford) at different points in the episode. Not to mention the fact that Joan had connections to Pepsi Cola.
- Chronology: 1962, considering the movie the ladies were filming and the time it took to make said film.

A strong pilot episode for what clearly is being set up as a campy if tragic miniseries. Both Jessica Lange and Susan Surandon seem to have gotten the basic ticks for the women they're portraying (if not the voices, but I can gloss over that) and they're backed up by a great supporting cast too. Whether this premise is sustainable for eight episodes will be fun to find out too as so far, it's off to a delightfully bitchy start.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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