Vital Viewing – Feud: Bette and Joan Episode 2

Last week I forgot to point out that I would be doing an episode by episode review of Feud so apologies for that oversight. This week I channeled Hedda Hopper and took notes during my viewing with the intent of noting down some of the more nuanced, pathos laced moments only in the end it became a page full of one-liners and insults. That’s not to say that there’s little substance in this episode, in fact it’s a real step up from last week. We’re slowly starting to see the more human side of both Davis and Crawford as the two momentarily put aside their differences to get an unwanted ‘cookie’ who’s supposed to be playing their neighbour in the film replaced. Interestingly enough when the two of them unite and work together they make for quite the formidable team. Sadly for them, this momentary friendship doesn’t last, thanks mainly to the meddling of others.

Last week Kathy Bates’ Joan Blondel claimed that the hate between Crawford and Davis was ‘chemical’ but this week we see that it’s the likes of Jack Warner, gossip columnists and their director Bob Aldrich that serve as the catalysts in this feud. As Warner notes, the underlying hatred between the two stars is making the picture amazing and he instructs Aldrich to keep the stars at each other’s throats, something he does begrudgingly so by feeding gossip anonymously to Hedda Hopper about the state of Ms Crawford’s ‘tits’, Joan rebuts by making vicious comments about Bette’s appearance in a rival column. It’s petty, it’s nasty, it’s pretty much ‘Fake News’ and it’s fabulous fun to watch but as the episode progresses the weight of the feud begins to take it’s toll on everyone.

For Joan it’s the paranoia, yes she has other issues like being two million dollars in debt (which is roughly 16 million today, if the online inflation calculator can be trusted) but it’s the constant fear that she’ll never have the respect she craves that drives her to be as malicious as she is. Bette on the other hand just cares about acting, to the extent that she seems more willing to set aside the ridiculous bitching than Joan – she contemplates asking Joan round for dinner but is quickly shut down by Bob – she on many occasions is more sympathetic than Joan mainly due to the fact that she doesn’t crave the attention and spotlight in the same way.

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What I loved most about the episode though is how despite Joan’s best efforts Bette really does seem to have the habit of -intentionally or otherwise – upstaging her. Both women ring up Bob in the middle of the night each apparently seeking comfort, Joan’s husband (or at least boyfriend, I need to double check if they’re actually supposed to be married) ‘walks out’ on her and she’s distressed, sobbing on the phone, Bob immediately rushes over to appease his flaky star, but the camera shows Joan calm, collected and tear free as she hangs up the phone, she’s using her acting skills to the best of her ability. Unfortunately for her though her follow up plan to seduce Bob and bring him onto ‘her side’ fails miserably as he turns her advances down. Contrast this with Bette who, following an argument with her daughter B.D. -played unconvincingly by 17 year old Kiernan Shipka – and the discovery that her love interest in the movie will be played by Victor Buono rather than someone ‘less fat and less homosexual’, she’s genuinely distressed and calls Bob because she needs ‘a friend’. Unlike Joan, Bette is tear stained and a mess as she receives Bob at the door and also unlike Joan there’s no deliberate attempt at seducing Bob, instead they share a kiss and he stays the night all thanks to the natural chemistry between the two of them. It’s a great contrast and if Joan were to find out she’d be livid and the paranoia would reach a new level of crazy knowing that Bette has won Bob over without even trying.

So obviously the plot this week was brilliant and a real improvement on last week. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are fabulous in their roles and the supporting cast are equally as good – Stanley Tucci being a notable example, just how slimey can one person be!? Another big shout out has to go to the set design, just take a look at Bob and his wife’s bedroom, the garish wallpaper, the cow skin headboard at the bed, what I think was leopard print in the bathroom! It’s all so dated, so over the top and yet in never looks indulgent, the effort put in to making the rooms look glamorously disgusting is incredible!

Next week’s episode is called Mommie Dearest which should prove to be interesting although I hope it doesn’t mean we’ll be subjected to an awful lot of Shipka’s acting. I know she’s only 17 and she’s been on Mad Men and was apparently pretty good on that but there’s something about her performance that is just too over the top – which is saying a lot when you consider the people Lange and Sarandon are portraying. The scene when B.D. and Bette have their big argument should have been a killer moment but Shipka’s whiney voice and delivery just took me out of the moment completely, hopefully she can prove me wrong.

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Titanic anyone?

Final Thoughts

  • Joan Crawford signs her autograph without looking, she just stares down the foolish blonde with a serial killer glare.

 

  • Susan Sarandon is totally gunning for an Emmy, not only has she mastered Bette Davis’ clipped pronunciation but she also managed to give an amazing performance during the argument scene with Shipka despite my issues with her performance.

 

  • “What’s your name dear?” “Sylvia” “Fuck off Sylvia”

 

  • FX are clearly ok with swearing. In the UK this doesn’t seem like a big deal at all but from my experience with American TV dropping  F bombs left right and centre is frowned upon. My favourite one tonight was when Joan walks onto the set half way through Bette’s scene and she exclaims rather magnificently  “I’m in the middle of a fucking take!

 

  • “…I’d have smacked you across the face if your braces hadn’t cost a fortune!” It’s nice that Bette has her priorities straight when it comes to parenting.

 

  • Another great line from tonight’s episode was “I don’t need subtext, I need good text” Bette is slaying it

 

  • On a scale of 1 to Sven how uncomfortable would you feel if someone demanded you stay to watch your boss get yelled at?

 

  • Bette v Joan – Bette gets the upper hand this week, she makes less of a diva of herself, has better one-liners and managed to get Bob on her side. Bette 2 – Joan 0

 

  • Whatever happened to…Louella Parsons? Hedda claims she’s her ‘mortal enemy’ which is a pretty intense enemy to have, they’re remembered for their rivalry to pretty much the same extent as Bette and Joan, will we ever see Louella? Who knows…
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