NY Times re-cap: Feud: Bette and Joan, episode 3 “Mommie Dearest”

“Not you-OUU BITCH!” is, so far, my favorite line reading of 2017.

My re-cap of episode 3 of Feud is now up at the NY Times.

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15 Responses to NY Times re-cap: Feud: Bette and Joan, episode 3 “Mommie Dearest”

  1. Jane says:

    I’m glad you are doing these recaps, Sheila. I haven’t warmed up entirely to the show, but appreciate the performances and am sticking with it. Your commentary on each ep is another reason I’m sticking with it!

    • sheila says:

      Jane – I’m interested to hear your responses!

      I was saying on Twitter jsut the other day that it’s the individual moments – and the details of the performances – that really linger with me – as opposed to the whole thing. I think some of the commentary on ageism/sexism is a little bit overdone – like I said in this recap.

      • Jane says:

        I completely agree, and your impression was, as always, so well-articulated. I find it heavy-handed, and am confused as to why they chose to go that way. Is it aimed at a younger, less-informed audience? I’m not sure what to think about some of the choices. The de Havilland narrative framework, for instance, eventually left me cold. As a whole, the show doesn’t resonate for me the way that I want it to — and I’m a woman! Who loves classic cinema! I should be the target audience … I think?
        My favorite scenes this week were the after-work drinks convo, and the scene with Bette running lines with Victor Buono.
        It’s the restraint in Sarandon’s and Lange’s performances that moves me.

        • sheila says:

          // Is it aimed at a younger, less-informed audience? //

          Maybe?? My fears going in was that they would be made fun of or mocked (like Dunaway in Mommie Dearest). I am happy to see that is not the case – although of course sometimes they do look ridiculous – but most actors do when they’re freaking out about their roles. It’s a natural part of show business so I am liking how the feud has been contextualized a bit.

          I am happy to see the true toughness that both Lange and Sarandon are bringing – because these were TOUGH women, right? Women who wanted to act and were willing to do what it takes. That doesn’t make them nuts (as Mommie Dearest presented) – it makes them actors – who were more happy working than not working. So that element I like – and it’s in the script as well as the acting. I am finding both of their performances extremely rich.

          The series so far is pretty brutal on Crawford – but some of that is also based on truth, as ugly as it might be. She WAS sipping vodka at 11 in the morning – there’s no way to soft pedal that!. I think lange is doing a wonderful job at showing her fragility and her terror at growing old and NOT getting her due as an actress. (Maybe there’s some need in a younger audience to see her be more “badass” or something? But not everyone is strong all the time. Crawford had huge insecurities. Insecurities aren’t necessarily pathological – like they were presented in Mommie Dearest. There is nothing worse than thinking you’re in something that is bad – and that must be 5,000 times more intense if you’re a big star!!)

          Catherine Zeta-Jones is not working at ALL for me. I don’t know what she’s doing. It’ll be interesting to see if they go into the whole Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte thing … but she hasn’t done the work she needs to do to show me at LEAST Olivia’s “essence.” Her voice is strange, she seems opaque, she’s droning in a monotone – I don’t understand what she’s doing. I’m liking Bates much better as Blondell.

          In this episode, there was much more reliance on that narrative device than there was in past episodes – and when it’s over-used I think it loses a lot of its effectiveness.

          // My favorite scenes this week were the after-work drinks convo, and the scene with Bette running lines with Victor Buono. //

          That after-work drinks scene was unbelievable.

          The look in Lange’s eyes when she said, “I led him into it.” Brutal.

          • Jane says:

            Yes, you are so right, Bates is a much better fit for Blondell than Zeta-Jones was for OdH. Zeta-Jones was miscast. I was relieved that the Mommie Dearest episode didn’t go in the direction I feared that it would.

            I appreciate that the show doesn’t shy away from the reality of the ugliness and yet hasn’t veered off course into exploitation. I do find Crawford more sympathetic than Davis. This show set up her vulnerability from the very first episode — especially in relation to her own feelings of inferiority to Davis, and it’s painful to see those insecurities laid bare. I don’t see her as a “victim,” though, because she is so much an agent of her art and career. There’s so much to be in awe of and empathetic toward, despite her faults.

          • sheila says:

            Jane –

            // it’s painful to see those insecurities laid bare. I don’t see her as a “victim,” though, because she is so much an agent of her art and career. //

            I totally agree with this. Life is tough and she was trying to survive – and freaking out at the same time. People don’t just sail smoothly through life. They struggle with fears, addictions – it doesn’t make them victims. And Crawford was tough!! Having insecurities doesn’t mean you aren’t also tough.

            Crawford had a different relationship to stardom than Davis did – that hasn’t really been explored much (although it will be slightly in the episode airing this Sunday). Crawford loved being a star. Davis saw it as part of the job and an annoying part – and God help you if you WEREN’T a star. But all the trappings of stardom didn’t interest her.

            But the things that came easily back in the 30s and 40s – suddenly weren’t so easy in the 1962 landscape. And nobody quite knew where the future of films was going. The studios were falling apart. TV was taking over. An old world was dying. It’s only, what, 8 years or so before Easy Rider? And Faces? And all the other films that ushered in the chaos of the independent 70s.

            All of that is really interesting to me – and it’s kind of there – in Tucci’s performance in particular – and in the scenes between him and Molina. They’re trying to navigate brand-new waters – just like BD and JC were.

  2. sheila says:

    I wonder if maybe Mad Men did this kind of thing better because it was spread out over so many seasons and there was time to explore the toxicity of sexism and how it infiltrated down into every personal interaction – as opposed to hammering down the point in a condensed period like Feud?

    I don’t know. For me, it’s the story of these two women doing their damndest to survive (and thrive) in a brutal business. The sexism is a given, really, and they barged right on through it – as they always did. Neither of them had anything handed to them. Both of them always had to FIGHT for what they wanted. and that will continue to be the case in show biz – nobody gets handed anything.

    so we’ll see – it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

  3. Susan Reynolds says:

    SO AGREE with your favourite line reading of 2017……I had to rewind that baby several times. Bloody brilliant!

  4. bybee says:

    I liked when Hedda Hopper called Joan Crawford “Crystal Allen”.

    Lange is brilliant, and I’m finally warming up to Sarandon as Bette Davis.

    Sunday nights feel so luxurious now.

  5. mutecypher says:

    I’m with Jane, the scenes with Bette and Victor were great. And poor B. D. I almost wanted to hear her say “It’s complicated.”

    I have to say I am loving particular scenes, but the on-the-nose-ness of the weekly themes is distracting. Something about “I don’t need subtext, Bob. I need good text” comes to mind. Or “I can find my way to the point without gigantic Tex Avery flashing arrows.”

    • mutecypher says:

      But I can forgive a lot about the writing when there are lines like the one from the first episode when Mamacita says she told the unpaid gardeners that they should consider it an honor to trim Miss Crawford’s bush.

    • sheila says:

      // “I don’t need subtext, Bob. I need good text” //

      Ha. That was one of my favorite lines in the episode. It’s such an actress thing to say! So many scripts hope actors will fill in “subtext” – and writers don’t know how to do the heavy lifting to provide a good TEXT – same with directors, who sometimes over-rely on actors to fill in the blanks. We’re seeing that with SPN this season. Give me GOOD text over SUBtext any day of the week.

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