I’m always wary of new Ryan Murphy projects. Glee and American Horror Story had their moments, but both eventually lost their way. Thankfully last year’s American Crime Story was a resounding success, and I’m hoping Feud will be just as fascinating. Judging by the pilot, it definitely looks like this show’s a winner!
Chronicling the rivalry between two iconic Hollywood legends (Joan Crawford and Bette Davis), Feud is a thoroughly mesmerizing production. The set design, the art direction, the cinematography – every single detail is painstakingly brought to life. In fact, this is such an elegant affair that it often reminded me of Mad Men – a show that succeeded in immersing me into its time period and nuanced world right out of the gate.
Obviously the primary reason that Feud is so captivating is because it’s got two phenomenal leads; Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon devote themselves completely to the titles roles, and they’re downright remarkable. It would have been far too easy for these dual roles to come out as campy and ridiculous, but Lange and Sarandon dig deep and unearth multiple layers within their respective characters. It’s extremely impressive to see such fine work within the span of one episode; I already feel like I’ve been watching this show for years.
Not that the show needed it, but Feud‘s supporting cast is equally tremendous with a host of familiar faces. Stanley Tucci is predictably despicable as the misogynistic head of Warner Brothers, while Judy Davis is delightfully devious as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Catherine Zeta Jones and Kathy Bates also both make brief appearances as Hollywood actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Blondellas, the narrators of our story. I can’t wait to see more of them, particularly Zeta Jones who isn’t a regular in Ryan Murphy’s work like Bates is.
Finally, it must be noted that the show cleverly tackles the agism and sexism that the two divas faced in old Hollywood. The heartbreaking reality here is that older actresses like Lange and Sarandon still suffer today from the same misogyny and lack of roles. Not much has changed, and it’s all very meta and on point.
– How brilliant are those opening credits? I think this might be one of the most impeccably-designed sequences I’ve ever seen. There’s just so much going at at every instant.
– Loved Marlyn Monroe winning the Golden Globe as Joan seethed with venom in the sidelines.
– It’s so heartbreaking to see Joan unable to pay her gardeners. We later watch her work in the garden herself, and even have a fan do some work next to the pool. Inspired idea if you ask me!
– Probably because she can’t afford a proper gift, Joan sends a cooler of Pepsi to Bob since she’s the brand spokesperson.
– There’s a really nifty sequence with Bob begging everyone around LA to take on the project as we see their various reasons for declining. Alfred Molina also does terrific work here.
– Want supple elbows? Rub some lemon. #BeautyTipsWithJoan
– I think Mamacita is going to be the year’s MVP. Hilarious.
– Did Joan just wash her face with vodka?
– The chair debacle with the ladies rushing to grab the one on the left was a hoot.
– The fact that Bette grabs her cigarettes the second she wakes up: priceless.
– I was so amused by Joan handing out gifts to the entire crew as Mamacita trails behind whispering their names and backstories. Reminded me of Veep.
– This episode does as fine job of revealing why Crawford has such venom for Davis. She blames her for her failed marriage, and craves her respect as an actress. When she finally gets that in the trailer before shooting, she still finds herself being criticized by Davis.
– Amazing stylistic touch: the black and white footage when the ladies are acting.
– Chilling sequence with Bette walking out with the white clown face.
– And the similarities just keep on coming: Davis’ daughter is played by none other than Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka.
– Loved the final scene with our ladies getting ambushed by Hedda, and then banding together and refusing to give in to her plot. Plus the camera tracking out of the window is a perfect ending.
Joan: (about her neck lines) Is there anything we can do about these lines? I’m afraid I’m gonna be served for Thanksgiving dinner.
Nonah: You know how it is. Men age, they get character. Women age, they get lost.
Hedda: You know my readers would be fascinated with hearing the thoughts of yesterday’s it girl about today’s.
Joan: There can only be room for one it girl. Is that right?
Hedda: Well, men built the pedestal, darling, not me. There’s only room for one goddess at a time.
Joan: Well, men may have built the pedestal, but it’s the women who keep chipping away at it until it comes tumbling down.
Jack: I created goddesses, Bobby. I created goddesses. I was Zeus and they were a couple of Aphrodites. But you know what happens to Aphrodite when her tits start to sag and her pictures start losing money? Or Venus, who should just look pretty and keep her mouth shut, and she starts having an opinion about everything you know what happens to her? Zeus picks up a lightning bolt and he hurls it right at her head and he splits it open.
Michael: So why did we stop living together again?
Bette: You wanted me to starch your shirts and greet you at the door with a martini in hand and ask, – “How did your day at work go, darling?” I’m the one that needed a wife.
Joan: She actually claimed she coined the term “Oscar.” Can you believe that? Back when she nabbed the award for Dangerous in ’35, she told the press that its posterior reminded her of her first husband’s ass.
Hedda: Stars of the night sky tend to keep to fixed orbits and never interfere with one another. Things sometimes operate that way in Hollywood, too.
Thanks to its meticulous performances and rich production values, this is one engaging pilot.