Jessica Lange Brings Back The Glory Of HBO Movies

A new made-for-HBO movie coming this Friday is a reminder of how important original movies have been to building the HBO brand.

They have been just as much a trademark of HBO’s commitment to high quality over the decades as all of the landmark series that have set HBO apart -- from “The Sopranos” to “Game of Thrones” (and a hundred other shows in between).

This new one is right out of the HBO original-movie playbook -- a movie requiring a top star to take center stage and then run off with the whole thing.

This is what Jessica Lange does in the title role of “The Great Lillian Hall.” In the movie, Lillian Hall is the reigning Queen of the American Theater in rehearsals for a Broadway revival of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”



The movie and the play-within-the-movie share some characteristics that run in parallel with each other -- most notably, Lillian Hall is the central figure in the movie, and the character she plays onstage is the center of that drama too.

The movie takes on a tough subject and looks it straight in the eye. The subject is the onset of dementia. 

It forms the movie’s central question: Can Lillian overcome the challenges of encroaching memory loss to give another in a long line of legendary performances? 

Here to answer that question is Jessica Lange, 75 (seen in the photo above with co-star Pierce Brosnan). 

Her performance places her in the top echelons of those who have also done some of the best work of their careers in the HBO movie space.

Oops, I forgot. She already did that in “Grey Gardens,” the 2009 HBO movie adaptation of the famous “Grey Gardens” documentary of 1975, for which she won an Emmy. She is a shoo-in for another one here.

“The Great Lillian Hall” was directed by Michael Cristofer and written by Elisabeth Seldes-Annacone.

The story is based loosely on the real-life story of the screenwriter’s aunt, the late actress Marion Seldes, also a stage legend who died in 2014 at age 86.

“The Great Lillian Hall” premieres Friday, May 31, at 8 p.m. Eastern on HBO and Max.

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