While it’s true that the infamous rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis helped cement the legacy of “Baby Jane,” it’s a truly great film in its own right, and far more nuanced than its current campy cult film status. Throughout the film, Jane and Blanche are locked in a crazy game of cat-and-mouse fueled only by jealousy. Each of them has what the other wants: Jane wants Blanche’s immortal star power, while Blanche wants Jane’s freedom.
It’s ultimately this conflict, wanting something that someone else has, that’s what makes “Baby Jane” so interesting. After all, who doesn’t feel jealous when they see someone has something you don’t or can’t have? There it is, something you want but are sadly out of reach, wasted by someone you can’t help but feel taking advantage of. “Baby Jane” visualizes this concept and takes it to the extreme. What if you want something so badly, you forcibly take it from someone until they break?
Of course, we don’t want to actually do that in real life, but there’s a certain catharsis in seeing it play out. Catharsis is what binds “Baby Jane” together, both on and off screen, in 1962 and 2022.