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‘The Great Lillian Hall’ Reviews

The Hollywood Reporter is first up with the a rave:

Jessica Lange Is Superb as an Actress With Early Dementia in a Lovely Valentine to Theater

Jessica Lange is perfection as the fictional actress Lillian Hall, known for decades as a revered star of the theater. During rehearsals for her starring role in The Cherry Orchard, she is having unusual difficulty memorizing her lines, and before long learns that the cause is early dementia. Despite that ominous theme, The Great Lillian Hall is a lovely tribute to life in the theater, with all its personal compromises, and a showcase for Lange, who deftly shows the character as a vulnerable woman and also displays the distinct style of Lillian the bravura actress.

Lillian is such a star that she is the key to the box office in the Broadway revival of Chekhov. The film’s trajectory takes her through rehearsals, and in and out of her personal life as she grapples with her diagnosis, in a plot driven by the question of whether she’ll make it to opening night. In rehearsals, Lillian at first delivers her lines with a fluttery theatricality and wavery voice but we see her performance deepen over time.

Off stage, she is still performative but less theatrical, full of bravado as she swans through her privileged life. But she is also full of fears and insecurities about aging, and has visions of her husband, a theater director and the love of her life, who passed away years before. Lange makes the different parts of Lilian seamless, as well as touching.

And she is surrounded by a cast in first-rate form. Kathy Bates plays Edith, Lillian’s irreverent longtime assistant. Bates makes the character colorful but real, brusque yet with evident deep affection for her friend. Lily Rabe is Lillian’s daughter, Margaret, reluctant to admit how neglected she felt as a child while her mother was devoted to the stage. Pierce Brosnan plays Ty, a neighbor who conveniently has a terrace adjacent to Lillian’s. That proximity is a contrivance, just as their late-night conversations about life and aging are a bit too on the nose. But Brosnan’s charm lets the actors get away with it. Jesse Williams goes beyond what the screenplay gives him in bringing to life David, the sympathetic, bright-young-thing director, who tries to salvage the play and help Lillian. And Cindy Hogan sharply plays Jane, the impatient, practical producer who is ready to fire her.

The film is best in its early stages, when it is at its most tough-minded. In one extraordinary scene that shows Lange’s intelligent, subtle choices, Lillian is forced by David and Jane to go to the production’s doctor, where she fails a memory test. Her hands shake as she tries to fold a piece of paper according to instructions, and she knows she’s in trouble. She almost weeps but doesn’t, and instead stares ahead stoically. When the doctor asks if she’s OK, she answers calmly, “Well I am pretty far from OK but I’m trying to formulate a plan.” When Lillian later receives the diagnosis of dementia, she tries to hide it, but Edith finds her prescription pills and knows what’s up.

Eventually, and not surprisingly given the story, the film sometimes crosses a line from fierce honesty into sentimentality. A scene in which Lillian and her daughter sing “Mockingbird” together, remembering the song as a lullaby from Margaret’s childhood, really does seem calculated to milk the emotions, and lands as inauthentic. But it’s also surprising that such easy sentimentality is relatively rare here.

Lange and Rabe get a predictable Big Acting yelling, crying scene, with Lillian in the hospital justifying her choice not to share the diagnosis with her child to protect her, and Margaret angrily sobbing, “I’m your daughter!” But in that scene the groundwork has been established and the emotions feel earned.


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by Anonymousreply 67June 12, 2024 5:35 PM

The film is smoothy directed by Michael Cristofer, who has continued to act, most recently in the current series Fallout, but may still best known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning 1977 play The Shadow Box. He makes The Great Lillian Hall thoroughly cinematic despite its ties to theater. It includes brief black-and-white sequences throughout, in which the characters individually talk to an off-screen interviewer. Some of those scenes are truth-telling, others simply a bridge to the next scene, and they carry an elegiac tone even though Lillian herself is interviewed. They are extraneous but elegantly woven in.

Simon Dennis’ cinematography keeps the film visually lively, from the black-and-white interludes to the red overlay on a dream of Lillian’s or a transition via the beautiful pink-purple of a flowering tree in a park.

As bracing and satisfying as it is to see Lange deliver snippets of The Cherry Orchard, Elisabeth Seldes Annacone’s screenplay leans too hard on the parallels between Lillian and the play’s heroine, Lyuba, who is about to lose her orchard and her home. As we see Lillian in the part, the lines we hear are pointedly chosen to echo her off-stage reality. “For once in your life you must look the truth straight in the face,” the student Petya tells her. At the play’s end Lillian stands on stage and looks out for one last time at “my house, my youth,” just after a conversation with Edith has made it explicit that Lillian’s true home is the theater.

There is a tinge of nostalgia here for the glories of the past, notably when Lillian recalls what her husband said about the theater. “Carson used to call it eternity in a moment,” she says, offering an unobtrusive off-screen echo. Annacone’s aunt was the legendary theater actress Marian Seldes, who also suffered from dementia and who late in life married the writer and theater director Garson Kanin. Lange’s portrayal does not evoke any particular actress, yet the similarity between the names Carson and Garson seems fond and is unmistakable.

When Lillian is offered a Tony for Lifetime Achievement, she asks Edith “How old do they think I am?” and Edith snaps back “By now a hundred and four.” Lange herself seems in her prime, expertly anchoring a film that is heartbreaking, yet joyful in its embrace of life and art. — THR

by Anonymousreply 1May 24, 2024 10:11 PM

Jessica Lange...the greatest actress of our generation--or of all-time.

by Anonymousreply 2May 24, 2024 11:10 PM

Looks like Jessica will be getting oscar number three

by Anonymousreply 3May 25, 2024 12:14 AM

Jesus, R2. Could you at least add an insulin warning?

by Anonymousreply 4May 25, 2024 12:29 AM

R3 You mean fourth Emmy, sixth Golden Globe, and second Screen Actors Guild awards.

by Anonymousreply 5May 25, 2024 12:33 AM

Jessica puts the dynamite in dementia! Too bad no one will watch this film dumped last minute on HBO.

by Anonymousreply 6May 25, 2024 12:50 AM

It only was put on in hopes she would get an Emmy nomination. I still think Jodie Foster will win over Jessica, who has enough awards.

by Anonymousreply 7May 25, 2024 12:52 AM

[quote]Jessica Lange Is a Superb Actress With Early Dementia in a Lovely Valentine to Theatre

by Anonymousreply 8May 25, 2024 12:57 AM

[bold]TV review: 'Lillian Hall' confirms that Jessica Lange is the greatest Minnesota actor of all time[/bold]

Neal Justin - Star Tribune (TNS) 7 hrs ago

Jessica Lange has won two Oscars, two Emmys and been nominated this year for her second Tony. But she remains underappreciated. At the very least, she deserves one of those Kennedy Center Honors. At most, her hometown of Cloquet, Minnesota, should erect a statue of her in the parking lot of its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gas station.

Her talent is on full display in "The Great Lillian Hall," a three-hankie drama debuting at 8 p.m. ET Friday on HBO. The fictional Hall is Broadway's leading lady whose time at the top is threatened by the onset of dementia. The fact that she's having problems memorizing her lines for a production of "The Cherry Orchard" is only part of her challenge. She realizes all too late in life that her commitment to the theater has come at the cost of relationships with her family and loved ones. The cast includes Kathy Bates, Pierce Brosnan and Lily Rabe.

Hall has her fair share of shortcomings, but Lange adds just enough touches to make you pray that she makes it to the opening night. In one heartbreaking scene, she tries to con her way through a medical exam, flirting and fighting with her doctor until it's clear that she needs help. It's a master class in acting — and further proof that Minnesota has never produced a finer actor.

by Anonymousreply 9May 30, 2024 12:53 AM

Yea—but did she call in sick again tonight?

by Anonymousreply 10May 30, 2024 12:59 AM

I like Jessica Lange but also think she is quite overpraised and prone to self-repetition (and going over the top when not reigned in by a strong director). This performance doesn’t seem much different than what she’s known for.

The best American film actress of her generation is Sissy Spacek, IMO, who unfortunately never got a career revival of her own, with the exception of her amazing role in Todd Field’s masterpiece ‘In the Bedroom.’

by Anonymousreply 11May 30, 2024 1:05 AM

I hope Jesse Williams pulls his dick out at some point.

by Anonymousreply 12May 30, 2024 1:18 AM

R11, say that round here, you better run fer yore life. That hissin' sound in the distance ain't cicadas. It's six really angry queens, comin' fer ya.

by Anonymousreply 13May 30, 2024 1:19 AM


[bold]‘The Great Lillian Hall’ Review: Jessica Lange Is Incandescent As Legendary Stage Actress Facing Dementia[/bold]

Pete Hammond

May 29, 2024 6:25PM PDT

I am a sucker for movies about Broadway and those who spend their lives in the theatre. Of course the crown jewel of the genre is the Oscar winning All About Eve, but there are so many others including 1933’s Morning Glory which won a young Katherine Hepburn her first Academy Award, as well as its rarely seen remake, 1958’s underrated Stage Struck. Ginger Rogers did a good one, Forever Female. The list goes on and on and now includes a stellar new entry, The Great Lillian Hall which gives the great Jessica Lange a challenging role worth her talents.

Premiering on HBO May 31, just barely under the wire for Emmy consideration, Lange’s performance as a stage legend facing dementia should send chills down the spine of any other contenders for Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie this season. This veteran star simply knocks it out of the park. Lange herself is coincidentally currently trodding the boards on Broadway in Mother Play, another great showcase for her talents that recently won her the NY Drama Critics Award as well as a Tony nomination.

For this HBO film she stars as Lillian Hall who is about to embark on a new production of The Cherry Orchard and the whole production depends on her star value so there is concern when during rehearsals she is increasingly having trouble remembering lines, so much so that the play’s sympathetic but worried director David (Jesse Williams) and frantic producer Jane (Cindy Hogan) who is especially concerned about her cash cow insist that she sees the doctor the production engages. That is where she gets the bad news. She has a form of dementia that is only going to slowly get worse. Basically she is in a state of denial but does reluctantly agree to the doctor’s demand she take a test in the office, which with shaking hands she resolutely fails but then tries to cover up, even from those closest to her including her daughter Margaret (Lily Rabe) and ever faithful assistant and longtime friend Edith (Kathy Bates), the latter who basically runs her life and keeps her upright. She knows her so well she is the first to figure out the truth, but Lillian powers on, even as hallucinations of her late stage director husband keep popping into her head.

Every now and then she has heartfelt conversations about life and theatre with her next door neighbor Ty played by Pierce Brosnan who adds his own level of charm to role that doesn’t demand much more than simply being Pierce Brosnan. There is also much time spent watching the production of Cherry Orchard take form with a leading lady who is becoming increasingly worrisome. Director Michael Cristofer, a Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner for 1977’s The Shadow Box, as well as the author of several other plays and an actor himself, really knows his way around this theatrical world and manages to build a surprising amount of suspense around the question of if Lillian will even make it to opening night, so even though the production is perceived to be nothing without its star attraction they do get the stand-by ready nevertheless ready to appear, but without notice to the unsuspecting audience. Will she have to go on instead?


by Anonymousreply 14May 30, 2024 2:06 AM

The strength here is that Lange never goes for the easy route with this portrayal, a very real fact of life for so many and she really imbues her with the sense of disbelief this could be happening to the great Lillian Hall who seems to be a person not aware of the clock ticking on life. An early scene sees her accept a phone call from the head of the Tony Awards telling her they want to present her with a life achievement award, something she can’t quite compute. “How old do they think I am?,” she asks Edith. “About 106,” comes back her deadpan retort. Bates is terrific as always, really nailing the persona of someone who is always there to look out for Lillian over many decades, but is also a genuine friend, especially when she comes up with a hearing device in order to deliver Lillian her lines. Rabe, whose theatre credentials go back to also being the daughter of the late Jill Clayburgh and playwright David Rabe, is perfectly cast here as the daughter who fights against the idea that she was always second to her mother’s love of theatre first. She gets a fiery emotional scene confronting her mother about why she was not told about her condition, and she delivers authentically. I also was amused by Hogan’s grasp of what it is to be a producer in the crap shoot of staging Broadway plays.

Lange by the way is wonderful in interpreting Lyuba, the woman she plays in The Cherry Orchard, so much so that you might hope she would take it on for real one day.

Producers are Bruce Cohen, Steven Rogers, Scott Thigpen, and Marie Halliday.

by Anonymousreply 15May 30, 2024 2:06 AM

New York Times


[bold]‘The Great Lillian Hall’ Review: A Star Is Fading.[/bold]

Jessica Lange is ideally cast as a grande dame of the theater who is facing a reckoning in this well-crafted melodrama by Michael Cristofer.

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

May 30, 2024, 7:00 a.m. ET

Directed by Michael Cristofer Drama Not Rated

“The Great Lillian Hall” is not afraid to embrace its classicism; had it been made in the 1940s, it would have starred Bette Davis. Like many of the best golden-age melodramas, this HBO film fully commits to both unabashed emotion and a complicated female lead, a role filled by Jessica Lange with a finely tuned mix of showmanship and nuance.

Lange’s Lillian Hall is a theater grande dame playing the charismatic matriarch in a Broadway revival of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” She is on shaky ground, suffering from memory lapses that affect the rehearsals, but she stubbornly, proudly soldiers on. Even after some devastating news, Lillian keeps refining her performance, both in life and onstage. (What we glimpse of the production made me want to see Lange, who is currently starring in “Mother Play” on Broadway, actually tackle “The Cherry Orchard” next.)

Besides its elegant handling of the parallels between Lillian’s character and her own life, the movie’s most interesting gambit is the way it breaks from the lazy habit of portraying stars as narcissistic, destructive monsters. Lillian certainly loves being the center of attention, and she can blithely wound her beleaguered daughter (Lily Rabe) and her dedicated personal assistant (Kathy Bates). But she is also capable of kindness and loyalty, along with a pleasurable wit. “I haven’t decided what age I am,” she tells her doctor (Keith Arthur Bolden), “but I’m not that old.”

Even when she is at her most irritating, Lillian has a lock on the devotion of those around her. You may well join the fan club, too.

The Great Lillian Hall Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

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by Anonymousreply 16May 30, 2024 3:06 PM

A new New York Times article on Lange.

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by Anonymousreply 17May 30, 2024 3:22 PM

^^ Of course, I meant LA Times. 🤪

by Anonymousreply 18May 30, 2024 4:19 PM

Oh, she’s coming for the Emmy, Globe, SAG, and every other television accolade.

by Anonymousreply 19May 30, 2024 8:06 PM

I won’t complain if Foster wins—she was in top form—but Lange might deservedly snatch the awards from her. These early reviews…🤌🏻

“Jessica Lange is perfection as the fictional actress Lillian Hall…[and] deftly shows the character as a vulnerable woman and also displays the distinct style of Lillian the bravura actress. … Lange herself seems in her prime, expertly anchoring a film that is heartbreaking, yet joyful in its embrace of life and art.” -The Hollywood Reporter

Jessica Lange has won two Oscars, two Emmys and been nominated this year for her second Tony. But she remains underappreciated. At the very least, she deserves one of those Kennedy Center Honors. At most, her hometown of Cloquet, Minnesota, should erect a statue of her in the parking lot of its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gas station. Her talent is on full display in "The Great Lillian Hall," a three-hankie drama debuting at 8 p.m. ET Friday on HBO. … In one heartbreaking scene, she tries to con her way through a medical exam, flirting and fighting with her doctor until it's clear that she needs help. It's a master class in acting — and further proof that Minnesota has never produced a finer actor.” — Star Tribune

“Jessica Lange is incandescent…[her] performance as a stage legend facing dementia should send chills down the spine of any other contenders for Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie this season. This veteran star simply knocks it out of the park.”—Deadline

“Jessica Lange is ideally cast as a grande dame of the theater…[displaying] a finely tuned mix of showmanship and nuance. … (What we glimpse of the production made me want to see Lange…actually tackle “The Cherry Orchard” next.)”—New York Times

Jodie won’t mind. Look at that embrace at this year’s Iscars. 👇🏻

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by Anonymousreply 20May 30, 2024 8:21 PM

I'll be surprised if Lange doesn't give the same performance in this movie that she's been giving for the past 20 years, but I hope I'm wrong. She and Geraldine Page are notorious for giving the same breathy and affected performance in everything. Page won the Oscar for The Trip to Bountiful at the end of her career, so maybe Lange will do the same.

by Anonymousreply 21May 30, 2024 8:28 PM

Lange Loon, it’s nice that you’ve started a clipping service. 😀

by Anonymousreply 22May 30, 2024 8:31 PM

R21 All the greats have their schtick. Meryl does her restless eyes, tugging at her earlobes, scratching at her nose schtick, upon which she slaps a wig and accent. Glenn does her clenching of the jaw, on-the-verge of hyperventilating while looking like she ate shit schtick. Spacek does her 101 variations of a country bumpkin; slurring Southern twang schtick. And the tricks and schticks among other greats are endless. And we love them for it!

by Anonymousreply 23May 30, 2024 8:36 PM

What was Joan Crawford's schtick?

by Anonymousreply 24May 30, 2024 8:43 PM

*yawn* I'd rather see her portray Dora Hall.

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by Anonymousreply 25May 30, 2024 8:58 PM

[quote]But she remains underappreciated. At the very least, she deserves one of those Kennedy Center Honors. At most, her hometown of Cloquet, Minnesota, should erect a statue of her in the parking lot of its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gas station.

Why not TWO statues?

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by Anonymousreply 26May 30, 2024 9:35 PM


ABC News

[bold]Review: Jessica Lange gives one of her best performances in 'The Great Lillian Hall'[/bold]

"The Great Lillian Hall" stars Jessica Lange in one of her finest performances.

By Peter Travers May 31, 2024, 1:04 AM

Starring the great Jessica Lange in one of her best performances—and that's really saying something— "The Great Lillian Hall," now on HBO/Max, is essential viewing for those eager to see what acting can be at its transcendent, transfixing finest.

Lange plays Lillian Hall, an acclaimed stage actress now in rehearsal for the Broadway opening of "The Cherry Orchard," the 1904 Chekvov play about Madame Lyubov Ranevskaya, a Russian aristocrat forced to sell her family estate before it's auctioned off to pay her debts.

What Chekhov considered a comedy, audiences saw as tragic. What you'll see in "The Great Lillian Hall" is both. In rehearsal, Lillian laughs about forgetting a few lines until X-rays from a mandatory medical visit reveal what looks like sugar sprinkled over her brain.

The sprinkles are Lewy bodies, proteins that build up in areas of the brain, resulting in a form of dementia that will cause memory loss, functional decline, tremors and hallucinations that quickly move from temporary to permanent. No cure. Even denial can only last so long.

Lillian's support system includes a daughter (Lily Rabe) she's neglected since childhood, the living memory of her late theater director husband (Michael Rose), a neighbor (Pierce Brosnan) she flirts with on her Manhattan terrace, and her long-time, long suffering assistant Edith (Oscar winner Kathy Bates, magnificent as usual) whose tough love she truly needs.

Of course, the lifeline Lillian needs most is the theater. She gets sympathy from her young Turk director (Jesse Williams), but only cold impatience from her producer (Cindy Hogan), who'd fire Lillian in a heartbeat if the play's box office wouldn't crater instantly.

Until sappiness invades, there's a bitchy "All About Eve" snap to the dialogue by Elisabeth Seldes Annacone, whose late aunt, the stage legend Marian Seldes, also suffered from Lewy body dementia but never lost the courage to look truth straight in the face.

It's lucky that skilled director Michael Cristofer, the Pulitzer-winning playwright of "The Shadow Box," has a welcome allergy to mawkish sentiment. Self pity does nothing for Lillian's life and Cristofer follows her path with bracing grit and grace.

Better yet, Cristofer has Oscar-Emmy-Tony winner Lange, radiant and riveting at 75, giving her all to a film that sees acting as a selfish but still noble profession. From Blanche in "Streetcar" to the drug-addicted Mary Tyrone in "Long Day's Journey Into Night," Lange has acted in many of the classic parts attributed to Lillian, a role Lange wears like a second skin.

With an earpiece connected to a microphone Lillian wears on stage, Bates finds humor and heart in the way Edith hides backstage to whisper a forgotten line. No happy ending is promised or delivered. The earpiece is a short-term fix at best. But Lange makes sure the nurturing spirit of theater to create "eternity in a moment" resonates from first scene to last.

Unlike the fallen noble woman in "The Cherry Orchard," who looks greedily on the past that represents her lost youth, Lange lives gloriously in the present. She's now on Broadway giving a Tony nominated tour de force in "The Mother Play," ever eager for the next challenge to catch eternity in a moment.

"The Great Lillian Hall" is Lange's latest master class. Sit back and behold.

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by Anonymousreply 27May 31, 2024 11:33 AM

I watched this film and enjoyed it, even though I don’t think it breaks any new ground for the subject, movies, or Jessica. It’s a pretty standard story and at times falls into melodrama, including family screaming scenes in the hospital that we have seen before. Pierce Brosnan is charming and filmed in golden light, even though New York is not lit that way on apartment balconies. Jessica is great in it, but it’s a role that any number of other great actresses could have played. In that sense, I wish we could see versions with Meryl and Glenn, who both turned down the film. They each would have done interesting things with it. But overall, a great result for Jessica at this stage of her career and for Michael Cristofer, the director.

by Anonymousreply 28June 1, 2024 2:34 AM

[quote]NYT: "The Great Lillian Hall” is not afraid to embrace its classicism; had it been made in the 1940s, it would have starred Bette Davis.

I guess they might have gone with a younger star made up to look old, but would Ethel Barrymore or Gladys Cooper have stood a chance at a leading role?

by Anonymousreply 29June 1, 2024 5:05 AM

is there a trailer?

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by Anonymousreply 30June 1, 2024 5:21 AM

R30, I think you answered you own question?

by Anonymousreply 31June 1, 2024 1:08 PM


‘The Great Lillian Hall’ Review: Jessica Lange Is a Diva Battling Memory Loss as Broadway’s Lights Dim Around Her Lange shines in Michael Cristofer's Broadway drama about the delayed price that great artists pay for putting their entire lives into their work.


Depending on how Russian your sense of humor is, Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” could be classified as either the darkest of comedies or a tragedy that sometimes manages to be mildly humorous. The play follows a past-their-prime family of Russian aristocrats who are forced to sell their eponymous orchard, which they spent most of their lives ignoring and neglecting. But once it’s time to actually part ways, they become overwhelmed by morose nostalgia as they struggle to let go of something that they assumed would always be there. It’s both a brilliant satire of wealth-induced decadence and a somber exploration of how humans struggle to say goodbye at the ends of their eras.

So it’s fitting that, whether she knows it or not, Lillian Hall’s (Jessica Lange) upcoming turn as Madame Lyubov Andreievna Ranevskaya in “The Cherry Orchard” will be her final performance. Michael Cristofer’s new HBO film introduces Hall to us as a quintessential Broadway diva, a Patti LuPone type universally acknowledged as the “first lady of the American theater.” Few professions in the entertainment industry are kinder to aging women than Broadway stardom, and Hall’s status as a theatrical matriarch has turned this Chekhov revival into the hottest event of the New York theater season.

But final dress rehearsals are derailed by chaos amid Upper West Side culture vulture buzz about the production — which also marks the Broadway debut of edgy theater director David Flemming (Jesse Williams), receiving his first taste of establishment legitimacy after years of being hailed as a rising genius. As Lillian struggles to remember her lines and blocking, the show’s backers are forced to consider the possibility that she’s no longer capable of carrying a Broadway production. As they weigh the risks of replacing her with a less bankable but more competent understudy, she takes a cognitive exam that reveals she has an early form of dementia.

It’s the kind of harrowing diagnosis that usually prompts people to retreat into the comforting embrace of family. But it forces Lillian to consider the trade-offs that accompany a lifetime of prioritizing her acting career over everyone in her personal life. The acclaimed actress was always able to write off her icy relationships with her adult children as a natural consequence of spending time with her “real” family in the theater community. But if she can’t memorize lines anymore, she faces the possibility of losing her life’s work without anything to show for it. So against the advice of her doctors and family, she decides to put everything she has into rehearsals with the hope of taking the stage one last time.

Elisabeth Seldes Annacone’s script gives Lange plenty to work with, and the actress — currently starring in her own Broadway production with Paula Vogel’s “Mother Play” — gives a rich performance that shows why she’s still at the top of her game. Lillian spends much of the film in an ephemeral stage of early dementia in which she knows who she is and what she’s doing, but the world gradually starts to look more and more confusing. Lange surrounds the character with an aura of ultra-politeness that you’d expect from someone so focused on outward appearances, but reveals more vulnerability as Lillian’s world slips away.


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by Anonymousreply 32June 1, 2024 4:30 PM


A lifetime of memorizing monologues from America’s great playwrights starts to bleed into Lillian’s everyday life, as she occasionally speaks in dialogue from “The Cherry Orchard” and other classic plays as she struggles to separate performance from reality. It becomes clear that, for all of her insistence on using art to tell the truth, Lillian’s entire life was something of a performance. The film occasionally shifts into a documentary format, with Lillian and her family reflecting on the sacrifices that her life in the theater necessitated and the ways that her determination to embody the role of a diva cost her the ability to play any other role offstage adequately.

While Lillian is often haunted by ghosts of her past and present (including Pierce Brosnan, whose role as the retired actor living next to Lillian sees him playing a siren of geriatric handsomeness who is constantly tempting her), the film is ultimately most interested in celebrating the irrational levels of devotion that live theater inspires in the people who make it. While it doesn’t pull punches about the challenges that lie ahead, “The Great Lillian Hall” ultimately makes it clear that its protagonist is lucky to have something that’s so hard to let go. But just like Chekhov’s timeless stone fruit heirs, that realization only comes to Lillian after she causes endless damage to everyone around her.

by Anonymousreply 33June 1, 2024 4:30 PM


‘The Great Lillian Hall’ Review: Jessica Lange Is Grand as a Legendary Stage Actress Confronting Dementia Lange is so good that she gives this therapy-corn version of The Show Must Go On a worldly center you can roll with and almost believe in.

By Owen Gleiberman

In “The Great Lillian Hall,” Jessica Lange plays a veteran theater actress — a legend of the Broadway stage — who is always putting on airs, reciting bits from her favorite roles, and carrying on in the tradition of fabled actresses who get known for playing characters like Blanche DuBois because they’ve actually got a lot of Blanche in them. (They believe their own illusions.) Yet just because Lillian Hall is a flamboyant grand dame doesn’t mean that she’s not showing you who she is. Lange, a beauty at 75, has a face that has only grown more expressive with the years. In “The Great Lillian Hall,” that face is a map of emotion we read. Even when Lillian is being deceptive (even when she’s deceiving herself), the majesty of her feelings shines through.

There’s a moving scene in which Lillian is seated on a porch with her adult daughter, Margaret (Lily Rabe), who she never had time for when she was raising her; she was always acting, doing eight performances a week. At night, though, she would come home in time to sing the young Margaret to sleep, and now, on the porch, she gently sings that same song — “Hush little darling don’t you cry…” Her voice is old now, and it cracks, and what we see and hear in Jessica Lange, expressed in emotions as delicate as parchment, are three levels of awareness: an ache of nostalgia; the regret Lillian now feels over what an absent mother she was; and something new — a quiet chasm of sadness about the fact that she’s now going away, to a place from which she’ll never return. For what no one else knows is that she’s been diagnosed with dementia.

There have now been a fair number of movie dramas that deal with dementia, and I’ve been on the record as sometimes finding them touching yet dramatically frustrating. As the main character recedes, there’s a way that he or she can also recede from the audience. “The Great Lillian Hall” solves that problem in a simple way. The film takes place during the early onset of Lillian’s symptoms, so that even though she’s in rehearsal for a major new Broadway production of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” where she has to contend with memory issues, the movie isn’t some gothic medical soap opera in which she suddenly starts to forget who she is. Rather, it’s about how Lillian, saddled with this devastating diagnosis, makes a peace with where she’s going by taking stock of who she’s been.

Her symptoms do cause some drama in the rehearsal process. She flubs her lines, screws up the blocking, forgets what act she’s in, and at one point literally falls on her face. Her most dramatic symptom, however, remains offstage: She keeps hallucinating that she’s seeing her beloved late husband, Carson (Michael Rose), a theater director who for some reason looks like an elegant European drug trafficker. David (Jesse Williams), the director of “The Cherry Orchard,” is a downtown star making his move to Broadway, and he hasn’t lost his faith in Lillian. But his tough-nut producer (Cindy Hogan) has. She keeps talking about bringing in the understudy to replace her.


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by Anonymousreply 34June 1, 2024 4:33 PM


The movie, written by Elisabeth Seldes Annacone and directed by Michael Cristofer, is a contraption that (mostly) works. It’s stitched together out of devices, like having Lillian’s neighbor, whom she flirts with on their stately adjoining Central Park South balconies, be a cornball Lothario played with jaded affection by Pierce Brosnan, or Lillian’s daughter saying a line like, “You never really wanted to be my mother. You just wanted to play the part!,” or the black-and-white faux-documentary-interview snippets that play like Bob Fosse Gone Cable Lite. The whole suspense about whether Lillian will make it through the rehearsal process and succeed on opening night — she’s the play’s box-office draw — carries you along, even as you realize it’s built around a major tinge of unreality. Is someone who’s struggling the way Lillian is really going to be able to perform this show all week long, for months on end?

Yet Lange’s performance is so good that she gives this therapy-corn version of The Show Must Go On a worldly center you can roll with and almost believe in. Lillian relies on her veteran assistant, Edith (Kathy Bates), for just about everything, and these two actors have a cruelly intimate and feisty interplay you could listen to for hours. There are a couple of scenes that tap into the agony of dementia (and Lange, at those moments, is powerful), but “The Great Lillian Hall” is mostly a feel-good movie about using acting to turn the lemons life hands you into a grand illusion of lemonade.

by Anonymousreply 35June 1, 2024 4:34 PM

The Guardian:

The Great Lillian Hall review – Jessica Lange captivates in Broadway-set drama

The actor gives an astonishing, awards-worthy performance as a stage star with dementia in a slight yet powerful TV movie

Benjamin Lee

There’s an almighty performance super-powering HBO’s mysteriously handled TV movie The Great Lillian Hall, an elegant Broadway-set drama blessed with an all-consuming Jessica Lange. It’s her first film lead since 2006 (even before then it was in 1998) and it’s one that almost wasn’t hers to have. It had originally been announced in 2021 as Places, Please, with Meryl Streep headlining, an actor who has swallowed up the few meaty roles for older women in Hollywood, a sign not of her rapaciousness, of course, but of an industry’s dire lack. More roles have appeared at a glacial pace but mostly in an episodic format, a world that’s allowed Lange a route back to the limelight.

Her work with Ryan Murphy has mostly been more suited for memes than awards (although her time in the American Horror Story trenches was rewarded with the role of Joan Crawford in the first season of Feud) but it’s still been fruitful, and a delicious, consistent reminder of just what a fantastic, and fun, actor Lange is. The past few years have also seen her return to the stage, most recently in the decade-spanning family drama Mother Play, which scored her a Tony nomination after she won in 2016. Her role here might, and should, vault her into the Emmys race, the film given a last-minute release on the last day of eligibility after a surprise announcement just weeks ago.

As late as it all might seem for a nomination, and Lange surely did deserve a better runway, she’s so breath-catchingly great that it shouldn’t matter, a thrilling performance of considerable weight that it could almost also see her winning too. As she also performs on stage in her real life as a Tony-winning actor playing a woman with dementia, here she plays a Tony-winning actor preparing to perform on stage who discovers she has dementia. Lillian Hall is seen as one of Broadway’s greats, a starring role in a new staging of The Cherry Orchard a fitting, and believably safe, choice for someone of her stature.

But something’s amiss. With just weeks to go until previews begin, she’s forgetting lines, growing unsteady on her feet and seeing visions of her late husband. Her assistant and longtime friend Edith (Tony nominee Kathy Bates, excellent enough here to make up for her other film of the week), her long-suffering daughter (Tony nominee Lily Rabe) and her new director David (Tony nominee Jesse Williams) are concerned, although Lillian is adamant that things are fine and that the show will go on, no matter what it takes.

It’s a small, focused character study centered around a knockout lead performance, the kind of film that might have been given a limited theatrical release two decades prior by Sony Pictures Classics with an Oscar in mind. It tracks that now this would be for the small screen but, mercy be, it’s thankfully not as a bloated miniseries at a time when that has become the eye-rolling go-to. It feels like a throwback in mostly the very best ways – scenes of Lange and Bates, two women in their 70s, softly sniping at each other in a luxe Manhattan apartment are a real rare joy to see – and with theatre pros in front of and behind the camera (director is Tony-winning actor-writer-director Michael Cristofer), it’s a film that takes seriously, and with detail, the act of stage performance and the perils that come along with.


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by Anonymousreply 36June 1, 2024 4:37 PM

The Guardian:

Some of screenwriter Elisabeth Seldes Annacone’s strokes can be a little too broad (a villainous producer barks on-the-nose lines like, “This isn’t show art, this is showbusiness!”), some directorial choices a little unnecessary (indulgent black-and-white interviews are interspersed throughout) and after a pacey, no-notes first act, there’s a noticeable sag in act two but all wobbles are corrected by Lange, who takes full control of a miraculous showcase. As clearly wondrous as Streep may be as an actor, there’s a fascinating, sometimes faintly terrifying, unpredictability to Lange that works so beautifully for someone in this situation, unsure of themselves and the horrors that might lie within. It’s one of her most persuasive and punchy performances, avoiding every cliche of the over-emphasised theatricality of playing a performer and the oft-seen movie-of-the-week confusion of having dementia. Scenes of her unmoored are shattering, yet the film doesn’t wallow in the miserable inevitability of it all. There’s humour and even a frisson of romance with her flirty pot-smoking neighbour, played by Pierce Brosnan, the film giving us the fullness of a life that for an older woman we just don’t often get to see in this way.

It’s perhaps a little slight, and at times a little rustily directed, to linger for some, but Lange’s performance undoubtedly will, the role of a star delivering her swansong delivered by an actor who’s clearly far from it.

by Anonymousreply 37June 1, 2024 4:38 PM


Jessica Lange comes full circle as a Broadway lioness in ‘The Great Lillian Hall’

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

Jessica Lange met the movie public perched in King Kong’s giant palm, but her real breakthrough came in 1982 when she played a pair of actresses, earning Oscar nominations for both roles: as a fictional soap-opera star in “Tootsie” and the real-life Frances Farmer in the tragic biography “Frances” (she won a statuette for the former).

In a way, Lange’s storied career comes full circle with “The Great Lillian Hall,” playing an aging Broadway star in a movie HBO acquired and is premiering on the final day of Emmy eligibility, no doubt hoping that there are additional accolades, and perhaps awards hardware, in her future.

As a format, the TV movie has surely seen better days (limited series have largely supplanted them), and “Lillian Hall” is a modestly scaled production, punctuated by a trio of female leads: Lange as the title character, billed as “the first lady of the American theater;” Kathy Bates as her loyal assistant; and Lily Rabe (like Lange, a veteran of producer Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” repertory company) as her daughter.

While rehearsing for a play with an avant-garde director (Jesse Williams), Lillian begins forgetting lines and experiencing other memory lapses, clear signs that she might be in the early throes of dementia. Her first reaction, though, leans toward denial, then defiance, while gradually triggering uncertainty for those around her about a show that suddenly might be as difficult to put on with her as without her.

Directed by Michael Cristofer from Elisabeth Seldes’ screenplay, the film doesn’t turn over new ground but nevertheless yields poignant moments, primarily in the interplay between Lange – a fierce lioness in winter, hungry for one more curtain call – and Bates, who could play this part in her sleep and still makes the most of it.

“Will you remind me who I was?” Lillian asks, a line that beautifully captures the fear associated with her condition.

Although Lange has kept busy working for Murphy in recent years – including her turn as another actor, Joan Crawford, in “Feud: Bette and Joan,” about the rivalry between Crawford and Bette Davis – the new film feels like a nice bookend to those earlier roles. At the same time, “The Great Lillian Hall” operates as a love letter to the theater while catering to those who can appreciate an “All About Eve” reference or two.

“I am not some broken-down old Chevy,” Lillian rages at one point. The movie works hard to reinforce that message by providing Lange with a worthy showcase, in a vehicle that might be light on horsepower but feels as polished as its central character.

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by Anonymousreply 38June 1, 2024 4:40 PM

I’ll probably write a more substantial review later, but this stood out immediately: While we all know Lange is masterful at handling highly-charged scenes requiring grand, mercurial, and explosive emotions, which she does beautifully in key moments here, Cristofer gives her the time and space to linger in silence and flex her subtlety and quiet sensitivity as an actress, recalling her more understated work in films like Tootsie, Country, Music Box, and Men Don’t Leave. Frankly, I was taken aback.

by Anonymousreply 39June 1, 2024 5:00 PM

Lange Loon, she could do a commercial for the phone company and you would be taken aback. You’re fluttering praise is so saccharine. 😀

by Anonymousreply 40June 1, 2024 5:07 PM

Also, I can see why critics have called for Lange to jump into a run of The Cherry Orchard. The bits we see of her as Lyuba are sublime. 🤌🏻

by Anonymousreply 41June 1, 2024 5:12 PM

Unlike Our Dear Paul, Lange has never caused audiences to cry AND shake simultaneously.

by Anonymousreply 42June 1, 2024 5:17 PM

It's been 25 years since Jess last her baps out for a paying audience

by Anonymousreply 43June 1, 2024 5:19 PM

No need to repost an entire article’s text. We can find that on our own. TIA

THX for the original link.

by Anonymousreply 44June 1, 2024 5:59 PM

But, still chewy. ;)

by Anonymousreply 45June 1, 2024 6:20 PM


by Anonymousreply 46June 1, 2024 6:20 PM

r28 pretty much sums it up. The early scenes with dementia are the best; the more the movie goes on, the more it depends on too much saccharine and sentiment.

Lange and Bates are predictably terrific, but Lily Rabe has perhaps the hardest role and executes it masterfully.

I don't think a single person under 50 (maybe 55!) will see it.

by Anonymousreply 47June 1, 2024 11:59 PM


by Anonymousreply 48June 2, 2024 12:29 AM

Will the lovely Miss Lange get that Emmy nomination?

by Anonymousreply 49June 2, 2024 8:30 AM

Tried to watch last night. Fell asleep. Try again tonight.

by Anonymousreply 50June 2, 2024 11:46 AM

Showniz 411: Jessica Lange Could Be Surprise Best Actress Winner at Emmy Awards in “Lillian Hall”

June 2, 2024 11:28 pm By Roger Friedman

Without any provocation from HBO, I did just watch “The Great Lillian Hall,” directed by Michael Cristofer and starring Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, and Kathy Bates. It’s written by Elisabeth Seldes, whose aunt was the great Tony award winning theater actress, Marian Seldes. The story is loosely based on Marian’s life when she was in her final play, “Deuce,” with Angela Lansbury. (They were each fed their lines through ear pieces.)

Apparently, “The Great Lillian Hall” is a last minute entry from HBO/Max in the Limited Series/TV category. Variety has it listed there as a potential nominee but includes none of its cast. After watching it tonight, I’d say nominations are in order for Jessica Lange — if not a win — as well as Rabe and Bates.

In many ways, “Lillian Hall” feels like an old fashioned tear jerker. But Cristofer and Seldes keep it aloft with some interesting beats. And the actresses give the kind of performances — Lange and Bates — that got them Oscars.

A backstage Broadway saga, “Lillian Hall” is about a great actress at the end of her run. She relunctantly comes to accept that she has dementia while rehearsing a production of “THe Cherry Orchard.” Jesse Williams plays her director, Pierce Brosnan is her artist friend with whom she shares a balcony at her Central Park South aerie. Bates is her Girl Friday, and Rabe is her neglected daughter.

There used to be a place for movies like “The Great Lillian Hall” on network TV– CBS in particular. But those days are long gone. In the past HBO eschewed this sort of thing for edgier material, but I guess with “Hacks” and “Sex and the City” this film is a good fit.

Lange is actually on Broadway right now, and Tony nominated for “Mother Play.” So how meta is all this? As her mind deteriorates, Lillian keeps seeing and talking to her dead husband, the love of her life. You can’t help thinking of Lange’s late partner, Sam Shepard. Same thing Rabe, who plays the put upon daughter. Her mother was the great late actress Jill Clayburgh. There’s a lot going on here.

All three actresses – Lange, Bates, Rabe — are sublime. Lange gives Lillian unexpected nuance. She could have made this a melodrama, with Lillian at her hoariest. Instead, Lillian is a little more clued in than anyone thinks. Lange interjects a welcome wittiness.

Bates is a national treasure, of course. And Rabe is a severely underused player both on peak TV and in film. Brosnan is very attractive furniture (it’s just nice to see him). There are a few of the cliches we expect in this story of thing. But Lange is so compelling as Lillian Hall, she really does, to use another cliche, give a master class. I can’t believe that any TV Academy voter who sees this won’t vote for her. Considering that HBO doesn’t have a lot going on this Emmy season, I’d think they’d be all over this one.

Nominations voting begins June 13th for members of the Television Academy.

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by Anonymousreply 51June 4, 2024 12:47 AM

This is Moye’s favorite performance of this season.

Awards Daily: Emmys 2024: Can the Great Jessica Lange Sneak Into the Competitive Limited Series / TV Movie Actress Race?

by Clarence Moye June 2, 202

Likely seeing what they had late into the Emmy cycle, HBO snuck in the Jessica Lange-starring The Great Lillian Hall at the very end of the 2024 Emmy cycle. Lange plays legendary Broadway actress Lillian Hall who unusually struggles to remember her lines during rehearsals for her hotly anticipated revival of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. This week on the Water Cooler Podcast, we review the film and Lange’s late-career performance. We also look at the very competitive 2024 Emmy Limited Series / TV Movie lead actress race and figure out whether or not Lange has a shot at a nomination.

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by Anonymousreply 52June 4, 2024 12:49 AM

There’s not any surprise. The nominating period closed just two days ago…there are no nominations for quite a while.

Why do link to insipid clickbait?

by Anonymousreply 53June 4, 2024 12:56 AM

For voters, HBO Max has created an FYC page. The film hit #6 yesterday in HBO Max’s Top 10.

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by Anonymousreply 54June 4, 2024 12:58 AM

"Jessica Lange...the greatest actress of our generation--or of all-time."

After our Lady Meryl Streep.

by Anonymousreply 55June 4, 2024 1:12 AM

And Meryl bows to Jess.

by Anonymousreply 56June 4, 2024 1:17 AM

It would be funny if she didn’t get a nomination after all these last minute attempts.

by Anonymousreply 57June 4, 2024 1:19 AM

R57 It wouldn’t be the first time she was snubbed. It won’t hurt her. She has enough accolades and hardware.

by Anonymousreply 58June 4, 2024 1:21 AM

Just a warning to anyone who thinks Lange has a good shot at the Emmy: no actor has won the award for a television movie in the past decade. It’s only been actors from limited series, and some of the most recent winners barely qualify (Sherlock, The Big C).

Jodie Foster and Brie Larson go into the race with a tremendous advantage.

by Anonymousreply 59June 4, 2024 1:25 AM

R60 Good. Her victory will be even sweeter.

by Anonymousreply 60June 4, 2024 1:30 AM

It really won’t. This isn’t the panel era of the Emmys, where retirees decided the winners because they had to watch them all in person. Whatever has the most buzz wins, period.

No one is talking about The Great Lillian Hall, outside the voices in the Lange Loon’s head. HBO isn’t even hosting an Emmy event for it in Los Angeles. The reviews, while good, haven’t broken through, and the viewership on streaming is low.

Maybe it’ll beat Mr. Monk’s Last Case and Red, White and Royal Blue for Best Television Movie, but that’s as far as it’ll go.

by Anonymousreply 61June 4, 2024 3:29 AM

Thank you, Miss Cleo.

by Anonymousreply 62June 4, 2024 4:20 AM

Why no discussion of the real Lillian Hall (-Davis) ?

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by Anonymousreply 63June 6, 2024 4:27 AM




Jessica Lange as Lillian Hall, one of the great legends of the American theater, is about to star once again on Broadway, in “The Cherry Orchard.” But she is collapsed on her bed, when Kathy Bates as her long-time assistant Edith angrily confronts her. Edith has stumbled upon the medication that reveals that Lillian has dementia — a condition she has been hiding from everybody.

“There is no way I’m going to let you go out in front of 2,000 people…” Edith begins

“What?” Lillian interrupts. “Broadway theaters don’t have 2,000 seats…”

“…and risk your life and ruin your reputation…”

“The Lyceum only has 950…”

“I don’t care if it’s 47 elves and three gorillas,” Edith explodes. “I’m not going through that. And neither should you. And neither should your audience.”

But Lillian perseveres, with Edith’s help, in “The Great Lillian Hall,” a movie about a fictitious grand dame of the theater, which is currently streaming on Max, with a goodly share of such crackling scenes. It showcases a trio of sensational actresses. Lange, Bates, and Lily Rabe, who plays Lillian’s daughter, are all surely best-known for their screen roles, but they each have been extraordinary as well on stage.

But there is a fourth actress hovering over the movie, not always comfortably. “The Great Lillian Hall” is clearly inspired by the great Marian Seldes, an elegant, erudite actress in the grand style, a veteran of 25 Broadway plays and innumerable accolades. I say clearly because the screenplay is written by Elisabeth Seldes Annacone, Marian’s niece, and there are any number of clues in the film to the connection.

Some are concrete if obscure: “Hall” was the maiden name of Marian’s mother. Some reflect her spirit. Like the fictitious Lillian Hall, Marian Seldes was famous for her dedication to her work; she’s entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most durable actress” after appearing in every single performance during the four-year-plus run of “Deathtrap” on Broadway.

Two aspects of Seldes’ personal biography seem to shape much of the movie’s plot. Three years after Seldes died in 2014, at the age of 86, a filmmaker produced a documentary entitled “marian” that her admirers accused of being an “invasion” that focuses on her “slide into dementia.” “The Great Lillian Hall” features a cynical documentary crew filming interviews with Lillian and those who know her. These scenes, interspersed throughout the movie, are presented in black and white, which distinguishes them from all the other scenes — the play rehearsals; Lillian’s everyday interactions; her increasing breakdowns and hallucinations. But it’s easy to believe that the real-life documentary influenced the decision to frame the movie as Lillian’s descent into dementia.


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by Anonymousreply 64June 10, 2024 4:31 AM

That actual documentary also features Seldes’ only child, who is reportedly quite critical of her mother. I have not seen the 2017 documentary, but in the movie Lily Rabe depicts Lillian’s only child as still angry and upset at her mother for her neglect. (“My mother, the theater: They’re inseparable. There wasn’t room for anything else.”)

There is no point in getting in the middle of the real-life disputes. “The Great Lillian Hall” is presented — and taken — as a work of fiction. It attempts, and often succeeds, in depicting the kind of complicated person who would have the talent and the single-mindedness to become a beloved stage actress, and gives us a glimpse of the culture and business of Broadway. But I did start to wonder why this film feels as much an elegy for the theater as a celebration of it. It seems no coincidence that Lillian’s final play is “The Cherry Orchard,” in which she portrays Lyuba Ranevsky, a Russian aristocrat who loses everything, in a world that no longer has room for her. There’s an obvious effort in the film to establish a parallel between Lillian’s and Lyuba’s losses — but it’s not a stretch to detect an argument in the film that there’s not much room in the world for the art of legitimate theater anymore either. “It’s not called show art, It’s show business,” remarks the play’s producer, with the aptly cold name of Jane Stone (played by Cindy Hogan), whose unsentimental pragmatism mirrors that of the peasant-turned-merchant Lopakhin within “The Cherry Orchard.”

“The Great Lillian Hall” happens to be streaming at an opportune time to refute such an implication. We need look no further than Jessica Lange, who gives a devastating performance in the film — and an even more astonishing performance right now on Broadway in the demanding title role of “Mother Play,” a new play by Paula Vogel. “Mother Play” runs only until Sunday afternoon, June 16. That night, we’ll see whether Jessica Lange wins her second Tony Award (which she certainly deserves), at the annual ceremony streamed on screens that makes the case for a still-vibrant world of the stage.


by Anonymousreply 65June 10, 2024 4:32 AM

and Kathy Bates saves the day by bringing in an earpiece!

by Anonymousreply 66June 12, 2024 5:30 PM

I haven't seen it yet, will soon.

The various reviews and people I trust who have seen it all liked it very much - that being said I think it definitely is a story that's been told to some degree before, and this has more of a "prestige TV movie" vibe than an Oscar contender, so it makes sense HBO grabbed it and programmed it for HBO/Max.

by Anonymousreply 67June 12, 2024 5:35 PM
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