Vital Viewing – Feud: Bette and Joan Episode 4

This week’s episode of Feud marks the halfway point of the series and it’s a bit of a breather episode compared to the last two. It’s the first time the two titular characters fail to appear in a scene together which means the levels of shouting, swearing and scheming are reduced.

With Baby Jane wrapped Bette and Joan both find themselves once again looking for work. Both had expected offers to come flying in but it turns out that despite their best efforts Baby Jane is only being considered a B movie and they find themselves back at square one. Their reactions to this (and to most of the events in this episode) contrast beautifully with Joan furiously firing her team of agents and Bette placing an ad in the paper looking for work.

However their fortunes take a turn for the better when the film becomes a smash hit with audiences and critics alike. The audiences love Joan and her attendance at a preview screening results in crowds begging for autographs, (Jessica Lange’s somewhat surprised smile during this scene is another great piece of acting) the critics on the other hand love Bette and the Oscar talk focuses entirely on her much to Joan’s dismay.

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Joan takes her lack of Oscar buzz badly and hits the bottle, as a result she fails to promote the movie and receives a visit from Jack Warner who is more than annoyed with her. It’s a great scene and one that Tucci and Lange must have had a lot of fun filming as he really gets to rip into her and she gets to slur insults after him.

Warner is also a massive dick to Bob Aldrich this week too, calling him a loser in a scene that really makes the most of Alfred Molina’s ability to look heartbroken. Stanley Tucci must have had a great time playing such an unlikable character and it shows in these scenes.

So as Joan wallows in self pity Bette hits the talk shows. I’ve praised Susan Sarandon enough as it is but the scene in which Bette sings a Baby Jane parody song on The Andy Williams Show is spectacular acting, she’s pitch perfect (or off-pitch perfect) and the mannerisms are spot on! Just look…

 

This week however it’s the supporting cast that really steals the show. As mentioned above, Stanley Tucci is great as Jack Warner but it’s Alison Wright’s Pauline and Jackie Hoffman’s Mamacita who are involved in the best scenes.

Alison Wright plays supporting characters so well. If anybody here has watched The Americans you’ll know what I mean, and she’s just as good here, she manages to bring real heart and emotion to characters that lesser actresses would turn into one-dimensional background figures. (Not to mention the fact that her American accent is top notch!)

It says a lot about the quality of an actress when a supporting character who has previously had only a handful of lines, is able to have the majority of an episode’s plot revolve around them and (and this is the crucial bit) the audience actually cares. My heart broke for Pauline when Joan rejects her script idea without even reading it (not that I didn’t see it coming) but when it’s revealed that Bob had used her script as scrap paper to write notes on rather than read it my heart felt like it had been ripped out of my chest. Poor Pauline, but as I said, credit to Alison Wright for making us care about her.

I’ve sadly not praised Jackie Hoffman’s Mamacita enough, I had her down as the mild comic relief and little more until now, but the scene where she and Pauline get lunch in a diner together and Mamacita reveals that she’s been studying censor reports at the library in her spare time gives the character so much more depth. How can anybody not like her? Not only is she deadpan, funny with the patience of a saint but she’s smart and clearly the sort of person you’d want as a friend.

It’s great to know that when there’s less Bette and Joan feuding going on the show can still be counted on to entertain and enthrall. The next episode is called “And the Winner is… (The Oscars of 1963)” and believe me I’m excited for this one, if it’s anything as good as tonight’s episode I won’t be let down.

 

Final Thoughts

  • Okay Frank Sinatra pops up in this episode and he’s a blast! What an utter manchild, he’s played fantastically by Toby Huss

 

  • I love how the ending of this episode plays out like a classic horror movie; the unexplained telephones off the hook, no sign of Mamacita, then Joan’s anguished cry – classic.

 

  • Yay! Catherine Zeta Jones and Kathy Bates are back! I missed them last week so their presence was a welcome return

 

  • If everyone said ‘Pepsi Cola’ the way Jessica Lange’s Crawford does I’d actually drink it

 

  • Bette v Joan : Tough one this week as they don’t really go head to head, but considering Bette wasn’t the one making drunken calls at night I think I’ll have to give it to her. Bette 3 – Joan 1

 

  • Whatever Happened to…ageing? Seriously! This show claims to have at least 10 acting roles for women over 40 so I got into googling the ages of the cast and Susan Sarandon is 70!!! Just look at this Instagram pic…

 

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