Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

    ‘Capote vs. the Swans’ Is an Exquisite High-Society Tragedy

    Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/FX

    It has taken seven years for a second season of Feud—one of Ryan Murphy’s litany of anthology series—to see the light of day. The first, Feud: Bette and Joan, aired practically a lifetime ago (at least in the world of television). It was a thrilling, gossipy little dish, but it arrived coasting on the fumes of viewers’ exhaustion will all things Ryan Murphy. The series had his signatures all over it; he created, co-wrote, and directed nearly every episode. But even with a crack team of Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange in the lead roles, Bette and Joan often felt indistinguishable from its progenitor’s other, wildly camp affairs.

    But Season 2, Feud: Capote vs. the Swans (airing Jan. 31 on FX and streaming on Hulu), is a different story. For this round, Murphy has handed the reins to director Gus Van Sant and writer Jon Robin Baitz, who have crafted a tale of venomous glamor and vacant adulation so intriguing that it demands deeper examination. Together, they probe the fallout from the release of a chapter in famed writer Truman Capote’s (Tom Hollander) final, unfinished novel, Answered Prayers. In the book, Capote exposed the secrets of the inner lives of his close circle of female friends—whom he deemed “the swans” for their ethereal beauty—and was cast out of his place in New York’s high society in return. But no one was cut more deeply than Babe Palley (Naomi Watts), Capote’s closest friend in whom she confided every concealed truth.

    This mutually ruinous relationship between the writer and his subjects is mined for every last bit of juicy scandal. While the entire eight-episode season is a nasty pleasure to watch, its poignant back half is particularly captivating. Baitz and Van Sant keenly construct a rich set of characters, all of whom deliver the vengeful goods as they move about the upper-crust circles of a bygone era of New York glitz. As that period fizzles out in a champagne-colored haze, Watts and Hollander deliver remarkable performances as two lost souls, set adrift without their other half. For all of its delightful bitchiness, Capote vs. The Swans tempers its spite to find deeply resonant humanity in its subjects for a series that’s as heartbreaking as it is haute.

    Read more at The Daily Beast.

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