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« Fences & Elle now on DVD and Blu-Ray | Main | The Links with the Feuding Stars, Too »
Tuesday
Mar142017

Feud: Bette and Joan. "The Other Woman"

Previously on episode 1

On the second episode, Bette and Joan fight for the affections of Robert Aldrich, Hedda Hopper has a feud of her own, and Kiernan Shipka goes full Sally Draper. Here's Jorge Molina...

Your autograph please Ms Crawford

For both of his latest anthologies, Ryan Murphy has tried to focus every episode on a different aspect of the overall theme of the series in question. With People vs. OJ, we got racism and sexism-centric episodes. On Feud it seems we'll be exploring different sides of the destructive Hollywood machinery. This week that's how women in the industry are pitted against each other for monetary and publicity gain.

The second episode also gives us an excuse to call Stanley Tucci "Big Daddy." Not that we needed one...

Baby Jane is on the first days of shooting, and Bette and Joan are getting along wonderfully. But that’s not gonna sell papers, says Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis) to Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina), in yet another feathered hat from her impressive collection. With the threat of becoming a has-been looming over him (a trait shared by everyone on his show, except perhaps Mamacita), Hedda convinces Aldrich to make his leads believe that he likes one more than the other, in the hopes that it will spark some buzz.

And then a battle for the paternal affections of the director begins, which brings out a feisty yet painfully vulnerable side in each of the actresses that shows just how much they are willing to do to cling to their power, and how powerless they really are.

Planted stories about Joan’s fake breasts and Bette’s age, jealousies and eventual firing of a younger attractive co-star, and each of the stars making late-night house calls to Robert’s house. The show really wants us to know that all these women have as a negotiating tool is their gradually wavering bodies.

The thematic thread explodes in the episode’s best scene: a confrontation between Bette and BD Davis (say that three times fast) who wants her daughter out of the picture after she sees her flirting with the crew. BD goes into a rant that could only exist in the Murphy universe, letting her mother know in no uncertain terms that her power is slipping away. While Kiernan Shipka is excellent in her continued reign as Teenage Queen of Period Drama Angst, this scene also brings Sarandon's best: Bette's iron facade is slowly breaking down.

We get other glimpses of the story, like Victor Buono's (Dominic Burgess) overt homosexuality and lack of sex appeal, Hedda Hopper’s own mortal feud with rival columnist Louella Parsons (season 3, please?), Jack Warner’s (Stanley Tucci) financial and visceral investment in the feud, and Robert Aldrich’s marital problems. All of them are teased, but none fully explored.

Kathy Bates and Catherine ZJ appear once more as Joan Blondell and Olivia DeHavilland to give contextual backstory and forced exposition that offers very little other than film trivia, and gives Lange and Sarandon a chance to recreate past Crawford and Davis films. I’m always glad to see them, but their segments continue to be the weakest part of the show.

On its attempts to Say Something about the industry, the show is doing a tricky balance of respect, nostalgia, introspection, and camp. It sometimes accomplishes it; other times, not so much. Feud, as far as the second episode goes at least, gets inside its head so much that it forgets the innate fun of its concept and leaves the cast who are pretty much down for anything, adrift. Let’s hope Feud loosens up in the upcoming episodes.

Because this is a show about Actresses Acting, here are the best moments of just that:

  • Hedda Hopper realizing that Joan Crawford is broke. Judy Davis’ astounded face is a GIF for the ages.
  • Jessica Lange wearing a floral caftan
  • Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) doing what she knows best: sitting in a car while her screen mother chain-smokes in the driver's seat.
  • Alison Wright overhearing a conversation (more of her already, please!)
  • Jackie Hoffman standing in a doorway

Your favorite moments from Episode 2?

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Reader Comments (18)

I enjoyed this episode, but I have to quibble with the show's assertion that Bette turned down Mildred Pierce because she didn't want to play the mother of a teenager. She had played the mother of 22-year-old Theresa Wright in The Little Foxes four years earlier. The same year Mildred Pierce was released, Davis played 50-year-old Lily Cristobel Moffatt in The Corn is Green, wearing 30 pounds of padding and a gray wig to look age appropriate. Vanity was of little concern to her when choosing projects.

BD's verbal annihilation of her mother was upsetting to watch, but consistent with the behavior of the real BD. Her assertion that "men don't look at you anymore" was a bit difficult to believe when uttered to the very attractive Susan Sarandon, as was Joan Crawford's comment about Davis looking old enough to be her mother. Years of heavy drinking and smoking had taken their toll on Davis's physical appearance by the early 1960s, but Sarandon is too well-maintained for those comments to sting like they are supposed to.

One of my favorite lines of the night:

Crawford: You're so lucky your acting career never took off, Hedda. So fortunate you never became a star...

CJZ looks way too young as 62-year-old de Havilland in the 1978 scenes.

March 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJ

"What's your name"
"Sylvia"
"Fuck off Sylvia"

Endlesss LOLs

March 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterceebs

ceebs -- YAAASSS. that was the best part of the episode.

j -- right? I guess they cast her to play the age from Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and didn't add makeup for the 15 years later bit.

jorge -- agreed on the Big Daddy moment. It's weird to me that i can't seem to love the center of the show at all (bette & joan) but am loving everything whirling around them alot: aldritch, hopper, warner.... and i'm hoping the other movie stars once they entered the story.

March 14, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Is it the dialogue doesn't reflect what is being said to the actress who is miscast.

March 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMARKGORDONUK

Agree that Bates and CZJ are a drag... Do we really need them to spell out what we're already seeing on screen? I guess maybe they need the framing to introduce the narrative on the 40s and 50s, which I find hilarious -- Sarandon as Davis as Margo Channing and Regina Giddens is the campiest moment of the whole series imo.

March 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

"It's weird to me that i can't seem to love the center of the show at all (bette & joan) but am loving everything whirling around them alot: aldritch, hopper, warner.... and i'm hoping the other movie stars once they entered the story."

Thank you! Nearly every review I've read praises the leads to the skies (Lange more than Sarandon), but I still think Ryan Murphy botched the casting big time. His lust for Oscar-winning stars of yesteryear really clouds his judgement.

March 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJ

After watching the second episode I do feel better about the series. I've given up on the imitations since no one is really doing it. Based on that I think Lange is giving a great performance. Ever time she shows up on screen I tune out everything else and just focus on her.

March 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom

"you know who you remind me of? not john ford"

judy davis is walking away with this whole shebang

oh, sally draper - poor old departed betty would be so proud of how good you look

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I think Jessica Lange is spot on as Joan Crawford, from Joan's flamboyance to her obvious & pitiable insecurities. I love every scene JL is in. To me, she (Joan) instigates the conflicts between the two stars of the movie, making her deliciously devilish. To me, Bette (or Sarandon) appears insignificant to Lange's Joan. Great acting by Jessica Lange.

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Semel

Umm what's the bit of Joan only having three children?

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Love JL...don't usually like SS...but so far she has won me over. Overall SO FAR good. I usually love anything Jessica does...so I'm glad she's back on T. V. Out of 5 stars so far 3 1/2. But it is still early in the series.....go ladies!!!!

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterFalcoholic

Some of the worst acting and writing I have seen in years.

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

I think the time period and sense of place is fascinating but the script is veering into mediocrity. I wonder if Faye Dunaway is watching this and saying - " I did it better" because she did.
Judy Davis continues to be so perfect as Hedda Hopper that I want a series on her instead.

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Definitely a mixed bag, which is typical of Ryan Murphy.

The moment when Bette rehearses "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" with Director Aldrich was subtle, even sublime. The scenes where Aldrich is lectured by his wife about how Davis and Crawford are being manipulated were so false and there to underline the show's "thesis," were absurd.

The dynamics of the lead duo are definitely being thrown off by a remarkably preserved 70 year old Sarandon playing blowsy 54 year old Davis and a matronly, aged 67 year old Lange playing a 50-something sleek, bone-structured to the max Crawford.

The highlights are definitely in the details and certain supporting cast members...

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterrick gould

There were some good moments . Molina is giving the best performance as Aldrich. I love the way he is juggling his two stars. Would Victor Buono really introduced himself to Davis as " been a bit homosexual" - this seems like lazy writing. I can't wait for William Castle to show up and direct Joan in "Straight Jacket"

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I did not buy Davis breaking down and needing to cry to and bed Aldrich because her daughter blew up at her. Millions of other women deal with the same type of mother-daughter confrontations all the time - and they don't end up in bed with their bosses. Furthermore, Davis's stardom was never about her beauty, it was always about her talent. (And there's no evidence to suggest Davis slept with Aldrich.) The whole sequence fell very flat to me.

Ryan Murphy loves emphasizing what a "feminist" he is in interviews, but this show makes his leading characters out to be weak-willed, rather dense and easily manipulated, and I doubt that was the case in real life.

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Yeah, def a dip in quality from episode 1. I think Lange is doing very well despite being miscast, while Sarandon is less successful, though physically better-cast. Overall, the supporting cast is great: Alfred Molina is so good in everything he does.

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob

One word: Mamacita.

March 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

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