Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mini-Review: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Talk about a bad case of sibling rivalry. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis star in what turns out to be a portrait of fame, family, and delusion. It's really a nasty little film; certainly not a "feel good" story with a happy end.

The set-up: In their youth, two showbusiness siblings vie for the spotlight. Jane (Davis) is the star, while Blanche takes a back seat. But as they grow up, the tables turn and Blanche achieves success in film. Filled with extreme jealousy, Jane rams into her sister with a new car, leaving her paralyzed. The remainder of the story takes place years later as the two sisters still live together; neither one with a chance to return to their former glory days.

Crawford and Davis are perfectly cast. Their real-life hatred of each other lent itself well to the film. Some of the confrontations become so heated that you don't know where the performances end and reality begins. Davis gets the showier part and is probably better remembered because of it. Although good, her performance borders on camp ( some would say it is camp). In fact the whole film has an element of campiness to it, intentional or not. I didn't have a problem with that element, though. Any over-the-top elements can be easily put aside as the story builds the tension higher and higher.

Although it's kind of a strange film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? certainly deserves a viewing. The performances from the two leads are great fun to watch as they do all they can to out-act each other.

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