Today we celebrate the 72nd birthday of the legend Jessica Lange! The two-time Oscar winner -- she's actually just one "G" short of being EGOT; can we count a Golden Globe in that spot instead? -- has largely been working on the stage (she was so good in Long Day's Journey Into Night, you guys) and on her photography (and she's real good at that too!) for the past decade, but she still finds time to pop up in a Ryan Murphy series here and there, always gifting us gold like this gif:
I hope she works more; I see there's no future projects lined up on her IMDb this morning, which is infuriating if it's not by choice (and with her it could be by choice) -- imagine being able to write and direct movies and not making them star vehicles for Jessica fucking Lange while you still can! Martin Scorsese's off there jerking it in some field when he knows what she's capable of directly. I'll never understand it. Never. So I'm choosing to believe she's just picky and interested in other things. The alternatives are too gruesome. Anyway we'll celebrate her today anyway, with a list of favorite roles, with one caveat -- there's a lot of her stuff I've never seen still! I dole her out in small doses, keeping in mind there are finite resources at hand.
My 5 Favorite Jessica Lange Performances
(see my write-up of this performance here)
Runners-up: All That Jazz,
A Thousand Acres, King Kong
All her work on American Horror Story
Crimes of the Heart, Losing Isaiah
Lange, Keaton, and Spacek together, (plus Sam Shepard and Tess Harper), and you've never seen "Crimes of the Heart"????
So it's not a perfect film, but these women together are a joy to watch. And it has one of my favorite lines in all of cinema:
"Lennie works out in the garden wearin' the lime green gloves of a dead woman."
I know, I know! It's one I have specifically been putting off for a rainy day, and that somehow just translated into 20+ years of me doing that. I will soon! Probably.
2. A Thousand Acres
5. Sweet Dreams
Her performance in American Horror Story Asylum is one of the best ever featured on television.
Sweet Dreams. Especially any scenes, and there are quite a few, with Ann Wedgeworth.
You need to watch Blue Sky, although it's hard to find. Couldn't find it on any streaming platform.
Normal, which was an HBO movie where her husband announced he's transitioning into a woman, sealed the deal for me on just how good she is.
I still have several of her films to see too though I don't think anything that's won her great acclaim. But her presence will make them worth tracking down eventually.
Can't believe no one has mentioned Music Box! I love her in that along with Donald Moffat. I thought she gave a lovely performance of a troubled, deeply complex actress in Feud but I never for one instant felt that she captured Crawford's essence.
My top 10 in order:
Frances (the movie itself is muddled but she's electric)
Men Don't Leave
Blue Sky (again the film is scattered and messy but she's great)
Crimes of the Heart (she's her usual exemplary self but the film's focus is much more Sissy and Diane)
She's very good in the American Horror Stories but I'm just not a horror guy, so I'm not sure I even watched a full season of any of the various ones she was in.
Going to have to agree with the Anon advocating for Lange's performance in AHS: Asylum. There are certain parts of that performance and material that are etched into my mind forever (The squirrel monologue and her displays of insanity near the end, for example), and her character has quite possibly the best arc in the series. It is criminal she didn't get any awards for it, and I'm willing to put her Emmy the following year for the lackluster Coven season was a makeup award for it. This would easily by my choice for her best turn.
My hot Lange take, though? I actually don't think her performance in Cape Fear is good (it felt to me she settled for screaming most of her lines) and is probably my least favorite of hers.
Her performances can be very divisive. I think it’s due to her theatrical mannered style she sometimes incorporates into her work. Personally I love it. Blue Sky for example is a performance that people seem to either love or hate. The movie itself is mediocre but she’s electric in it and sure sometimes a little over-the-top but always fascinating to watch.
Top 10 Ranked:
1. Blue Sky
3. Sweet Dreams
5. Men Don't Leave
7. Crimes of the Heart (great movie, secondary part)
8. Music Box
9. Broken Flowers (good movie, secondary part)
10. A Thousand Acres
American Horror Story: Freak Show
I love 'Crimes of the Heart' so much, you should definitely get on that!
I think of her Joan Crawford in Feud is amazing. It completely stands on its own next to Fay Dunaway’s creation. Normal was quite a performance. And Frances. There are so many.
No one likes her take on Blanche Dubois?
Titus is SO underrated!! I think Julie Taymor's over-the-top theatrical visuals threw a lot of people off but Lange is phenomenal in that.
Frances is my favorite. I think she really took that role to heart.
Men Don't Leave was a wonderful movie. Might have been the first movie I'd seen her in. Other actors in the film who gave solid performances included Arliss Howard, Kathy Bates, Joan Cusack, and Chris O'Donnell, in what IMDB lists as his first movie role.
I can't believe nobody mentioned her in Rob Roy! She is stunningly beautiful in that movie!!! It's a great movie with an amazing cast.
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