It’s exhausting, spending a lot vitality contemplating the lives and issues of rich folks in a lot of our artwork. However spare a thought for one in every of the males who launched us to such obsessions. Truman Capote wasn’t the first author to construct a profession off the window he gave his readers into American excessive society, however — as FX’s Feud: Capote vs. The Swans seeks for instance — he was one in every of the few to explode his appreciable social capital so spectacularly. That’s what makes it such engrossing tv: Here’s a man who had amassed all the clout in the world, solely to mild it ablaze whereas everybody watched. And nobody, not even he, is absolutely positive why.
The second season of one in every of FX’s many anthology dramas from Ryan Murphy (the first, Bette and Joan, premiered an astonishing seven years in the past), Feud focuses on infamous movie star tabloid scuffles, utilizing them to look at the darker impulses that drive fame and our obsession with it. Capote vs. The Swans is a bit more durable to sum up than season 1’s “Bette Davis vs. Joan Crawford” hook, however this season’s extra quick and juicy melodrama makes it a little bit extra accessible, even when a viewer finds its topics extra obscure than a pair of Previous Hollywood legends.
Capote is probably going the title most will likely be acquainted with coming into this season of Feud, merely for his important literary contributions. Whereas he wrote plenty of profitable novels, a lot of which acquired tailored into movie (like Breakfast at Tiffany’s), he skyrocketed to fame with the publication of 1966’s “nonfiction novel” In Chilly Blood — arguably the first true-crime hit. Capote vs. The Swans largely takes place in the decade following this success, as the creator turns into a fixture of New York excessive society and ingratiates himself to a cadre of rich socialites, the titular Swans.
It doesn’t final. Capote is a author, “always listening, always recording,” he reminds them, as excerpts from a novel in progress are printed: salacious and thinly veiled accounts of the Swans’ tumultuous private lives, inflicting all of them to vow revenge. But when the battle is easy, Feud’s exploration of it’s something however.
Leaping ahead and backward by means of time, the collection — primarily based on Laurence Leamer’s e book Capote’s Girls: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Music for an Period — constructs a portrait of Capote (Tom Hollander, completely disappearing into the position) through mosaic. In a single scene he’s confidant to girls like Babe Paley (Naomi Watts), spouse of media tycoon William S. Paley, and Slim Keith (Diane Lane); in the subsequent they’re at odds, particularly after the publication of his first e book excerpt results in their onetime pal Ann Woodward’s (Demi Moore) demise by suicide.
On paper, all of this reads as a status cleaning soap, lathered on thick. FX’s advertising of Feud doesn’t discourage this; the collection is being billed as a narrative about “The Original Housewives.” The precise execution is way extra difficult than that. In its fixed flitting about, author/showrunner Jon Robin Baitz and director Gus Van Sant (who helms most however not all of the collection) rigorously construct a thesis by frequently letting its opposing forces outline one another, knowledgeable by their biases, insecurities, and self-delusion.
Capote desires to get pleasure from all the riches of the jet-setting crowd however can by no means fairly cease seeing himself as an observer irrespective of how a lot he participates. He’s a person fascinated by the secrets and techniques of excessive society, “the dance of old monies co-mingling with the new, all the rules they have … American royalty and the rituals enshrined therein.” And but he empathizes with the girls he makes use of for kindling, waxing poetic over their “ballerina pain,” the “gnarled feet” behind their efficiency of perfection.
The Swans are simply as compelling of their performances and of their rage: at Capote’s violation of decorum, of their efforts to reassert it, in the homophobia that comes roaring to the floor as soon as the creator is now not of any use to them. It’s a collage of self-loathing, a cocktail party hosted on the fringe of a knife. Capote vs. The Swans ruminates on many issues because it explores its central battle, some deftly, others much less so. However in the period of the untouchably rich 1%, it strikes a noteworthy chord — one which hearkens to a time in America the place the higher class was cautious to not let the public understand how a lot of their wealth was a farce, a tightly choreographed dance that led the public to consider they may very well be like them in the event that they labored onerous sufficient, at the same time as they constructed the partitions so excessive that none of them would ever be allowed in.