If you’ve run into me in the past month, you’d know that I’ve been binge-watching Ryan Murphy like crazy. I sat down and watched the entire season of “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” in a matter of days. I felt like I was going through withdrawals, but luckily Murphy’s back with his new anthology series, “Feud,” and I can get my fix once again.
Murphy’s new series centers on one of pop culture’s favorite things: celebrity feuds. The first season follows Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon), Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and the rivalry between the two stars on the set of their film, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Both stars are past their prime, struggling to find roles for women of their age. Crawford, despite hating Davis, knows that if the two of them team together for a movie, it’ll be the biggest film of the year. That doesn’t keep her from taking every chance she can to outshine her.
This show perfectly fits Murphy’s stylized directing, from the lavish set decorations to the campy dialogue and camera movements. Across his numerous successful shows, he manages to keep his style consistent, whether it be in a horror story, a courtroom drama or a 1960s period drama. The playful mixture of humor throughout works so perfectly with this over-the-top story of an extravagant time in Hollywood. On top of that, it looking beautiful, half of the episodes are directed by women and it provides over 15 acting roles for women over the age of 40, something hardly any TV shows are doing today.
However, what really perfects this show are the performances by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. When the two of them are in a scene together, they fill it up with their presence alone. It’s incredibly hard to portray real-life people as famous as Bette and Joan—and we can see how this can fall flat like with Cuba Gooding Jr.’s performance as O.J. Simpson in “American Crime Story”—but Sarandon and Lange do it and make it seem effortless. The only word to describe them in these roles is iconic. They give such nuanced performances, adding layers to what could have been an incredibly shallow story. The first we see of Lange, she’s sitting in the audience as Marilyn Monroe accepts an award for Best Actress. She makes a bitter comment and brushes it off, but her eyes fill with tears, showing firsthand the insecurity lying beneath a woman who is seen as an icon, not a human being. Another scene that blew me away was after their first day of shooting on set when the two women join the director in the theater to screen the day’s shots. They are forced to see themselves—who they actually are and who they’ve become–within this feud with one another. It’s a tragic scene that gave us a glimmer of the emotional toll we’re going to see these women put through.