November 15, 2011 at 10:49 am #233120
Considering the fact that American Horror Story has received such mixed reviews, I’m quite shocked at how many critics make it a point of highlighting Lange. Every great performance doesn’t always receive the attention its due – especially if the film/show containing it isn’t as great.
This thread, as is the Meryl Streep thread in the Film section, is meant to generate discussion regarding Lange’s work in American Horror Story and the prospects of her being recognized come awards time. I feel, considering the attention it’s received, that Lange’s work here warrants a thread of its own. Some may even consider her “the breakout star/character” of the show along with Evan Peters.
That’s major for an actress of her calibre and stature. Below is a sampling of what critics have had to say regarding her work. Please share your HONEST opinion. Though Lange is my favorite actress, this is in no way meant to be a “Lange lovefest”. In fact, I enjoy intelligent criticisms of her work; they make for interesting debates and observations.
“Jessica Lange steals this surreal freak show with comical verve, purring and hissing in a delirious display of mock piety laced with menacing vulgarity. In a sensational turn as a flamboyantly nosy neighbor, [she’s] elegant and menacing and deliciously arch, like something out of the 60’s camp classic Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. She’s reason enough to tune in.” – TV Guide
The true star of the series is Jessica Lange, who’s in roughly the age range of Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte and just as regally nutty. Lange has never been afraid to let her freak flag fly, and in this show she’s hoisting that baby over her head and twirling it around in figure-eights. She’s a plummy marvel, issuing every line in a sinuous sing-song and caressing props as if they were long lost lovers’ hands. Even her silences are in italics.” – Salon
“Jessica Lange [is] easily the best element of the series.” – Hollywood Reporter
“Jessica Lange, in glorious blood-and-moonlight-on-magnolias mode, is simply marvelous — she doesn’t just chew the scenery, she spits it into her hand and uses it to make hallucinogenic tea.” –Los Angeles Times
“What makes Constance so engrossing is her deliciously contemptible portrayal by Jessica Lange. Lange’s variant voice volumes and knack for saying the cruelest things in the kindest manner make her all the more unnerving and threatening. Her […] conversation over poisoned cupcakes […] stands out among her finest scenes as an actress.” – PopMatters
“[Jessica Lange] is giving a warts-and-all performance that will likely net her some awards nominations.” – Newsweek
“Jessica Lange in American Horror Story is funny yet delicately ornate, like a dying tree decorating itself with moss.” – People
“When Jessica Lange swans in as the nosy new neighbor, snooping around for the eventual Emmy nomination she’s sure to receive, it’s a reminder that nobody writes showy guest-star parts better than Murphy.” – New York Magazine
“[There is] the indelible supporting work of Jessica Lange. As a sinister neighbor with a Southern accent who drops by with Ipecac-flavored cupcakes, Lange is fantastically over the top.” – Boston Globe
“Jessica Lange once again steals the show.” – The Guardian
“Jessica Lange […] is a malicious hoot, far more colorful than the morose [lead] characters.” –Entertainment Weekly
“A completely fabulous Jessica Lange having a romping good time.” – USA Today
“Jessica Lange is terrific (in both senses of the word) as a sinister neighbor.” –Washington Post
“Give Jessica Lange all of the awards – Emmys, Golden Globes, Oscars, soccer trophies. ALL OF THE AWARDS.” – TV.com
“Jessica Lange steals the scene as the couple’s “Proud Virginian” kleptomaniac neighbor and really should just pick up her Emmy now.” – E! Online
“An absolutely delicious Jessica Lange, doing her first TV series, as the mysterious and clearly disturbed next-door neighbor […] is having the time of her life.” – Philadelphia Inquirer
“[Constance] is played with grim relish by Jessica Lange.” – Miami Herald
“[Constance] is deliciously played by Jessica Lange.” – Mercury News
November 15, 2011 at 11:00 am #233122
De Ja Vu? Jessica Lange’s fans on this site are going to ruin it for me.. I love her, and I get the jealousy of why Streep and not her, but Boomer closed it once, he’ll close it again! Her work (as evidenced by your post) can speak for itself.November 15, 2011 at 11:18 am #233123
::sigh:: There is no jealousy. I just think what’s fair for one actor/actress in regards to forum etiquette is fair for all other actors/actresses, i.e. dedicating a thread to an actor/actress.
In regards to Lange, it’s a standout performance. I’m not just an overzealous fan – though I can be that too. ALOT of people are talking about it (also, check out her current Golden Globes stats). In regards to us fans ruining it for you, I can understand. I feel the same way regarding Streep.
In regards to Boomer, I already sent him a PM re: why there can be a Meryl Streep Official Thread and not one for Lange, or any other actor/actress for that matter. If need be, I’ll address this matter at a higher level.November 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm #233124
-_- @ this thread, but MarkAlexis does at least owns their fanaticism, so you got my respectNovember 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm #233125
De Ja Vu? Jessica Lange’s fans on this site are going to ruin it for me.. I love her, and I get the jealousy of why Streep and not her, but Boomer closed it once, he’ll close it again! Her work (as evidenced by your post) can speak for itself.
Not surprising, given the history.November 16, 2011 at 7:50 am #233126
Sorry you guys feel this way, lol. I’m really not trying to stir trouble. Hope we can get some interesting discussion going on Lange’s work, both on the show and otherwise.
In other news: Ryan Murphy has stated that tonight’s episode (#7 – “Open House”) is very Constance/Lange-heavy. Apparently, we find out about “the rules” to the house from Constance.November 16, 2011 at 8:16 pm #233127
I hope this thread doesn’t end with me just posting to myself (God, what not loving every single thing Meryl Streep does can do to your popularity, lol). Still, did she kill it in tonight’s episode again? Yeah, she killed it.
She’s also trending on Twitter… Jessica Lange, that is 😛November 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm #233128
I for one am looking forward to watch this after reading the reviews. thanks MarkAlexis for posting.November 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm #233129
^ Your screenname just made me feel guilty for my snark (re: post above yours), lol. You’re welcome. The reviews should be great. For sneak peek, just do a quick “Jessica Lange” or “JessicaLange” search on twitter. You’ll see the love. Nothing like common, ordinary folk to give you an idea of how good something is. The demographics for her are across the board.November 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm #233130
That’s it. I’ve watched again. I DARE anybody to say Lange is not doing something simply iconic on “American Horror Story”. 62 years old and with such bite, grit and luminosity.November 16, 2011 at 10:03 pm #233131
no worries, I may be a Streepfan, but Lange is up there with her. In fact, I’m one of the few who thinks that the 1982 Oscar for lead actress should have gone to Lange. The problem with Lange is that she can get too one-note. The problem with Streep is that she makes bad choices (director, projects).November 17, 2011 at 12:31 am #233132
I think the exact opposite as you. The Oscar for “Sophie’s Choice” belonged utterly to Streep. She owned that. Also, Lange truly deserved her Oscar for “Tootsie” and “Blue Sky” – this one the best and last “throwback” to an old era in Hollywood and acting in general – think Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh and Anna Magnani. And from the brilliant Tony Richardson. A perfect moment in Oscar history.
I find that Streep gets and is sort of in a rut that has nothing to do with which directors and actors work w/ her.
To help with explaining my thoughts – my favorite article on the matter:
Jessica Lange: The Anti-Streep
By Matt Mazur 1 November 2006
PopMatters Contributing Editor
On a family movie trip one casual afternoon in 1983, upon exiting whatever unmemorable, child-oriented confection my parents had subjected me to, I was confronted with the larger than life poster for Jessica Lange’s film Frances, in which she plays the outspoken, misunderstood, and abused Golden Age Hollywood hellion Frances Farmer (who, in real life, would end up in and out of mental institutions, be subjected to gang rapes while incarcerated, and, to top it off, Farmer received an eventual lobotomy for her troubles). I was immediately struck by the ghostly look the actress had plastered on her face and knew that something positively horrible would be happening to her in the movie, even something unjust. There seemed to be a turbulent secret hiding behind Lange’s haunted expression that I could somehow identify with, and every week or so, when I went back to the theater, I would stand and stare at the Frances poster for as long as I could.
I made it my life’s mission, right then and there, to see every film starring Jessica Lange. I was eight years old.
Fast forward twenty-three years later and I still can’t miss a Lange performance. My childhood infatuation blossomed into a reverential appreciation for the art of creating characters, and I fully credit Ms. Lange with sparking my life-long passion for film and performance. Some critics argue that she is always playing the same role: neurotic, chain-smoking, put upon farm wife with a penchant for carnality, or some variation on this type, but for my money, Lange is arguably the finest living actress of our time. She will always remind me of the happy times in my childhood and discovering what ingredients make for a great performance. Her courageous work, both in film and in her private life as an activist for the rights of children around the world, gave me a fundamental appreciation for the possibilities of actresses that I continue to obsess over today, and set an unusually high standard of quality with which I measure every performer.
It would be a couple of years following that experience with the Frances poster before my family could afford a VCR, so I had to remain content with occasional trips to the movies to see that poster and fantasize what the film might be like. When our family was finally able to catch up to the technological boom, my first Lange experience finally happened: Crimes of the Heart was on pay-per-view, and since it was not rated R, I got to watch it. Of course, anyone who has seen this adaptation of Beth Henley’s rather stagy play about three oddball southern sisters (co-starring Diane Keaton and Sissy Spacek) will tell you it isn’t Lange’s best performance. It didn’t make a damn bit of difference to me; I thought she was reinventing the wheel. At that point I’d really begun to develop a hunger for watching actors interact, and I was positively entranced watching three actresses who, at the time, were among the most talented and powerful in the industry.
About two years later, at the age of twelve, it was time (finally!) for my much-anticipated date with Frances. I had read everything I could about the performance and the film. I think I may have actually hyperventilated before putting the tape in the VCR. I had heard the mythical stories of Lange holed up in New Mexico with co-star and legendary method acting pioneer Kim Stanley (who herself turned in a bravura, Oscar-nominated performance in the film as Frances’ eccentric mother, and in her time was called “the female Brando”), doing acting exercises for days at a time. Lange was furiously preparing for what she had the foresight to realize was going to be the performance that would either make or break her.
In the film, Lange is nothing short of magnificent. Frances was a film that redefined her image from serious bimbo-model to serious thespian. Playing an actress that would have been called “quirky” rather than “crazy” had she been alive today, Lange uses every muscle in her body, every desperate gesture, to convey Farmer’s inner turmoil. She oscillates between moments of tender calm and hurricane-force rage with equal aplomb. Parallels between Lange and Farmer are evident: both were outspoken politically, both were typecast as the hot blonde, and both had to struggle to be taken seriously. This performance had a massive impact on me, as I had no idea performers were able to so easily dissolve into their characters: I believed Lange was channeling Farmer in some other-worldly way. The mix of hurt, frustration, and fury that the actress manages to display when it is explained to her in the film that she doesn’t have proper insight into her own mind is unforgettable. It is a consistently surprising, sexy, and natural performance that the lightweight girls of film today need to go to as an essential reference. An actress playing an actress is always in danger of going too far, but Lange nails this role. I have since seen Frances many, many times, and each viewing brings a new layer or nuance to the last.
Stanley offered her one choice bit of advice after the intense shoot was finished: do a comedy. So, in between starting up a relationship with Frances co-star Sam Shepard (her partner to this day), and raising her young daughter (fathered by Mikhail Baryshnikov), Lange punched in for work on one of her few big box office successes, Tootsie, a comedy/drama about gender co-starring Dustin Hoffman. She went on to win the Academy Award for the film, playing a soap opera actress who falls in love with Hoffman’s leading lady. For Lange, the role was a perfect fit: she was a new single mother herself, searching for respect in the acting arena. In the film she is sexy, modern, and light. She became the first woman to be doubly nominated since 1942 when her name was announced as a contender for Frances in the leading category and Tootsie in the supporting race. Many said that her statuette for Tootsie was really a consolation prize for losing the big prize that night.
The next Lange film I caught blew my young mind. Sweet Dreams, for me, demonstrated the ability of an actor to adapt their own personality for a role while still completely disappearing into their character. In the film, Lange plays Patsy Cline, a role that cemented her competency as a chameleonic actress and brought her a fourth Oscar nomination in three years (in all, Lange has racked up six Oscar nominations and two wins: Best Supporting Actress for Tootsie and Best Actress for 1994’s Blue Sky). Rumor has it, Meryl Streep (who, coincidentally, was the actress who beat out Lange for the 1982 Best Actress Oscar) desperately wanted the iconic role of Cline, but was turned down by the director in favor of Lange, quite an accomplishment given that only five years prior she was an industry joke after appearing in the disastrous 1979 remake of King Kongand Streep was already well on her way to becoming her generation’s Katharine Hepburn. If anything, the two actors are contemporaries in spirit only: Lange has turned out to be the Anti-Streep. Eschewing the highly-mannered, technically perfect style of acting usually employed by Streep, Lange continued to create organic, relatable women on screen, warts and all. Why can the American public only have one great actress of a certain age per generation working at one time? Certainly, Streep can’t play every great part for middle-aged women, but sometimes it really seems that way. And unlike Streep, Lange has continued to work mainly, with moderate success, outside of mainstream Hollywood, preferring to remain out of the glare of the spotlight, working only once a year, and enjoying her primary role of mother.
During the early 1990s, Lange and Shepard moved their family to Minnesota and her career ambitions began to cool, despite turning in one of her most memorable characters in a film that was largely unseen (Men Don’t Leave), and appearing in the biggest money maker of her career (the Martin Scorsese-directed version of Cape Fear). In this phase of her career, Lange began to play largely “mother” roles, albeit interesting, thoughtful ones. Even her tour de force, award-winning, emotionally unstable army wife in Blue Sky was a variation on this theme, although it provided the actress with one of her most revealing, daring characters since Frances. What Lange does with this bizarre character is a marvel to watch: she gives a particular humanity to an essentially unlikable woman, who is also a poor excuse for a mother and wife.
While Lange does occasionally find her way into some incredibly mediocre films, she somehow she always manages to turn in stunning characterizations, despite the less than artistic surroundings. Take, for example, the 1997 box office stink-fest A Thousand Acres, an adaptation of Jane Smiley’s renowned re-interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Lange plays another farm wife, but this time re-invents the character as someone truly naïve, subtracting her own fierce intelligence from the equation, and imbuing Ginny Cook-Smith with basic common sense. It is a revelatory performance that succeeds as a result of the actress’s lack of vanity and inhibition to dumb down considerably. Her character’s arc is dynamic, and Lange, with loving attention to detail, modulates Ginny’s very gradual empowerment with a virtuoso-like expertise. When you hear her speak the words “I was a ninny, a simpleton” after leaving everything she had known to find herself, it is clear that Lange was able to balance the bitterness, the pain and the relief that dictate the character. This is a moving, full performance that unfortunately falls prey to the film’s weak script and even weaker direction. Not even the allure of co-star Michelle Pfeiffer (who at the time was coming off a series of sterling critical and box office successes) could draw an audience.
Regularly playing mothers and farm wives has somewhat pigeonholed Lange into a certain category, but the role of Queen Tamora of Titus reminds viewers of the diversity of her talents. It’s interesting to note that Lange had never performed Shakespeare prior toTitus, and she has said that she never had the “actor’s urge” to do it. She proved to a younger generation of actresses that you can act sexy without being a total whore, and she turned in an image-altering, bravura performance for director Julie Taymor in this time-spanning adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most challenging plays. Lange gave this lesson on sensuality and fearlessness while celebrating her fiftieth birthday, a time when most actresses are putting on extra layers rather than shedding them. Lange again used her body, her lack of vanity, and her sexuality in a cunning, calculated way, different from the days of playing ingénues and starlets. Queen Tamora’s sexuality was natural, raw, and unconscious. One of her best scenes of the film is the pleading for her son’s life with the unwavering Titus (played with polish and wit by Sir Anthony Hopkins). She brings full-out desperation to the scene in a way only Jessica Lange can. You can see something inside her snap, and this is an act that will forever change her. Lange’s scenes opposite a classically-trained Shakespearean like Hopkins are electric, and witnessing their chemistry is a delicacy for audiences. The scenes where she and her sons terrorize Titus’s children are played with a villainous glee that Lange clearly relished the chance to explore. Amidst the chaos of the film, Lange’s villainess is the cast stand out.
While Lange has a few more lines on her face than we she played Frances, her acting in Titus was equally as primal. Around this time, Lange was also beginning to be unfairly dogged by what I can only imagine are obligatory rumors of plastic surgery. She has been criticized with a maddening utter nastiness by detractors in major print articles for altering her face. In an industry where appearance is valued over talent, and where most actresses get their first facelift somewhere south of forty, it mystifies me that anyone who writes about entertainment would actually be brave (or self-righteous) enough to say that facelifts are bad for an actress. In a climate where every other commercial on television is for Botox or some other random fountain of youth chemical facial peel, is it really a surprise when an actress actually tries to look younger? It’s definitely a frustrating “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. Plastic surgery or no, Lange actually looks her age, not at all like the Frankenstein monsters many women before her have become in their mid-fifties, trying desperately to look like the dewy-eyed starlets in their twenties. While her model good looks at one point severely handicapped Lange and the public’s perception of her, with age she has become less and less interested in self-importance, which has only added to her breezy sexiness and her ability to disappear into roles.
Her disappointment with a string of films that began in 1996 led Lange to make work decisions based solely on the director or subject matter. Since this declaration to work only when the proper material is secured, Lange has been sadly absent in film, the leading roles that brought her acclaim no longer as plentiful (her only true leading performance since 1998 was in the 2003 HBO film Normal, about a woman delicately dealing with her husband coming out as a transsexual). Since the late 1990’s, Lange has switched back and forth from filming meaningful cameos with big directors (Tim Burton’s Big Fish, Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers, and Wim Wenders’Don’t Come Knocking) and tackling some of theater’s most classic female roles (Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night are among her triumphs). She went back to work with a vengeance last year when the last child to leave the nest went off to school. In addition to her worldwide campaign for the rights of children (a quest that has taken her recently to Mexico, Africa, and Russia), she is currently filming a version of the brilliant documentary Grey Gardens, in which she plays a wildly eccentric distant cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, and putting the finishing touches on a television movie remake of the multiple personality drama Sybil, playing the role of the psychiatrist, made famous by Joanne Woodward. In the fall, she will be seen opposite two more of film’s great underrated, under-utilized actresses: Joan Allen and Kathy Bates in the road trip movie Bonneville. In addition to her film roles, Lange has just signed onto a London revival of The Cherry Orchard.
Hopefully, these more juicy parts will lead to a richly deserved mid-life career renaissance for Jessica Lange. She deserves more than just simplified cameos. She deserves more than development hell, proving that it takes more than two Oscars and ample skill to get your films made. Several of her pet projects, like Julian Schnabel’s The Lonely Doll, with Naomi Watts, screenwriter Robin Swicord’s directorial debut The Mermaids Singing, and the once-promising period drama Cheri, which was set to co-star Hayden Christiansen and Judi Dench at one point, remain in limbo. Neverwas, which premiered last year in Toronto, still has yet to find a distributor despite some good notices.
No matter what direction Lange’s new choices will take her in, I will be the first in line at the theater or video store, rabidly uncovering the intricacies of every new performance she offers me. If need be, I will even buy the Japanese import from a shady seller on eBay for a ridiculously high price, or stoop to buying VHS (that really is scraping the bottom of the barrel, isn’t it?). My point is: I haven’t missed a single Lange performance since my revelation in front of the
Frances poster at Winchester Mall in Rochester, Michigan, 23 years ago, and I don’t intend to. To realize this oath I swore as a boy, I have traveled for more than four hours round-trip through the most dangerous road conditions, and at times have been the only person in the theater watching the film. No one has been brave or crazy enough to try and stop me yet, and if they know what’s good for them, they’ll just join me in a hearty round of loving the Lange.November 17, 2011 at 2:04 am #233133
Figured you wanted to know:
Monsters & Critics says:
The two lionesses – Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy – are firing on all pistons. Lange is brilliant as Constance… Constance and Moira are the series’ well-oiled machine of mutual hate and respect. These ladies complete each other and give us viewers fabulous over-40 actresses to savor- I love that. Lange and Conroy are Emmy worthy in their respective roles.
Should Jessica Lange just clear a space for her Emmy now?
Read more: http://www.eonline.com/news/watch_with_kristin/american_horror_story_redux_will_house/275458#ixzz1dxGwYSoK
Den of Greek:
Jessica Lange has been really putting together one of the best performances of her career as Constance
TV Guide: Jessica Lange, however, continues to absolutely kill it as the increasingly sinister neighbor lady Constance
While truly an ensemble series, Jessica Lange’s contribution is incalculable. She completely sells one scene in particular that would be incomprehensible in any other hands but hers.
http://scifimafia.com/2011/11/tv-review-american-horror-story-episode-7-open-house/November 17, 2011 at 7:47 am #233134
There is already a thread for American Horror Story and most people in TV Land over hear don’t feel like kvelling over one actress.
The topic ‘The Official JESSICA LANGE Thread (“American Horror Story” currently airing)’ is closed to new replies.