TV Series Review: Feud: Bette and Joan

Starring Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Judy Davis, Jackie Hoffman, Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci and Alison Wright

Sundays at 10P on FX

Rated TV-MA

My Rating: ****½:5

In recent years, there has been a large amount of TV series that have rivaled theatrical films in terms of writing, acting, and production value. Joining this list is the FX drama “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

The series, which details the real-life feud between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the filming of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” manages to tell a great story on its own as well as recount a fascinating piece of film history.

The year is 1961. Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) are in their twilight years as the film industry is at a turning point. Defying conventions at the time, the two are cast in the film adaptation of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.” With the combination of their raging egos, pressure from overworked director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) and producer Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci), all does not go smoothly.

As the first of several planned series bearing the “Feud” name (a second incarnation centered around Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana will air in 2018), the series is a great look at a key conflict in film history. The period details of early-1960s Los Angeles are meticulous in detail in everything to the sets, costume and hairstyles as well as the frank depiction of how people behaved during that time frame. The cast also puts on performances that are worthy of their roles. In addition to the main cast, Catherine Zeta-Jones brings a great layer to the story as Olivia de Havilland, recalling the “feud of biblical proportions” between Bette and Joan in 1978.

While the series does occasionally wander into the territory of a campy exploitation film from the 1960s, “Feud: Bette and Joan” is still a delightful look at one of the most intriguing conflicts in the history of film and is highly recommended.

Review by Steven Pryor

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