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Diane Lane and Naomi Watts lead pack of mean girls in ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’

Neal Justin – Star Tribune (TNS)

It’s hard to pick a side in the latest installment of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud.”

In one corner, you have Truman Capote, a self-absorbed novelist who betrays an elite group of female friends in 1975 through a thinly veiled short story that exposes their bad behavior. His pretentious opponents react like they’ve been stabbed with a dessert knife, even as they snub their noses at anyone who can’t afford to snack on caviar. After just the first episode of “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans,” which premieres at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, Jan. 31, on FX and becomes available the following day on Hulu, I wished the whole lot would be convicted for bad manners, sharing a jail cell with the “Seinfeld” gang.

But not everyone shares my contempt, at least not for the ladies who lunch.

“The tragedy of that generation, and I include my mother in this, is that they were caught between ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ and the Pill. The frustration and sadness was baked into the time,” Murphy said earlier this week in a virtual news conference in which he was flanked by a cast that includes Naomi Watts, Demi Moore, Molly Ringwald, Chloë Sevigny and Diane Lane. “There is nothing more depressing than lost potential.”

Writer Jon Robin Baitz, who was adapting Laurence Leamer’s book, “Capote’s Women,” believes the “swans” were never allowed to reach their full potential.

“On some fundamental level, they were being treated as props,” said Baitz, who created the “Brothers & Sisters” series.

Watts plays Babe Paley, who left her job as a magazine editor to support her husband, CBS president Bill Paley (the late Treat Williams). She’s more shaken by what Capote writes about her than she is by her battle with lung cancer or the hanky-panky going on between her husband and best friend.

“She shares all her secrets with a man who she feels genuinely cares about her well-being, while her husband didn’t spend enough time appreciating her,” said the two-time Oscar nominee, who also served as an executive producer on this eight-part season. The first season, “Feud: Bette and Joan,” debuted in 2017, starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, who makes a guest appearance this time around as Capote’s mom. “So she fell into this relationship as if it was the deepest romance she ever had, minus the sex.”

Lane believes there are solid reasons that her character, Slim Keith, would lead the campaign to ruin Capote, even though Keith is the one having the affair with Bill Paley.

“She empowered Capote and nurtured his growth and was there for him during a lot of his formative time,” she said. “His nickname for her was Big Mama.”

Tom Hollander, who had the daunting task of following Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones’ portrayals of Capote for the big screen, stuck up for his character.

“Maybe they didn’t really think he was one of them and maybe he didn’t believe he was one of them, either,” he said. “On some level, he was a tourist in their world and on some level, they thought he was lucky to be there. When they thought he had turned, they were vicious. ‘You were the adornment in our house. You were not our equal.’ It’s as if he was someplace between them and their staff.”

The cast and creators spoke so eloquently about the “Feud” characters’ intellectual natures and great contributions to society that I wondered if I had missed an episode or two. I didn’t. The biggest takeaway I had was that dinner with any of them would have been insufferable. The wine, however, would have been superb.

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‘FEUD: CAPOTE VS. THE SWANS’

Rating: TV-MA

How to watch: Premieres Jan. 31 on FX (and streaming on Hulu)

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©2024 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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