Mommie Dearest

1981

Biography / Drama

0
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 48%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 72%
IMDb Rating 6.7 10 14478

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN

Director

Cast

Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford
Xander Berkeley as Christopher Crawford
Jocelyn Brando as Barbara Bennett
Steve Forrest as Greg Savitt

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by gftbiloxi 5 / 10

Mommie Deadly: An Alternate Reality In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Given the film's current cult movie status one is tempted to believe the 1981 MOMMIE DEAREST was a critical debacle and a box office fiasco. That is not really the case. It is true that critics generally considered the film a failure, but many of them admired certain elements of it; it is also true that box office fell below expectations, but it was not a box office disaster in the same sense as the 1980 HEAVEN'S GATE or the 1981 INCHON.

It is also true, however, that audiences howled with laughter at the film when it debuted, and although leading lady Faye Dunaway received a number of critical accolades for her performance as Joan Crawford, she also received an equal number of devastating reviews--and it was these that caught the spotlight. It was a humiliating experience for an actress particularly noted for her perfectionism, and rumor has it that Dunaway feels the film ended her career as a major film star. Whatever the case, Dunaway quickly developed a strategic silence about the film that she has maintained for some two decades.

Seen today, it is easy to identify the core problems of the film. The most obvious is the script, which is extremely inconsistent in quality and yet perversely consistent in a style that can only be described as soap opera hot-house to the nth degree. This is particularly true of the dialogue assigned to Dunaway. Infamous lines such as "No More Wire Hangers Ever," "Tina! Bring Me The Axe," and "I'm Not Mad At You, I'm Mad At The Dirt" have become a staple of every drag queen from Maine to California.

But the ultimate disaster here is director Frank Perry. Joan Crawford was a larger-than-life personality; the role is written to reflect this; Dunaway plays the role as it was written. But it would seem Perry sought to heighten the effect: the rest of the cast is extremely, extremely restrained. This must have seemed like a good idea in theory, but it proves a terrible mistake in actual fact. No matter what Dunaway does with it, she can NEVER seem less than wildly overwrought in comparison to the rest of the cast, and the effect is very peculiar indeed.

The designs and the cinematography also clash in an incredibly bizarre way. There is absolutely no doubt that everything about the film is exactingly accurate: that is indeed the look of the period, right down to the very last detail. But the photography is extremely flat, and you are constantly aware that the sets are indeed movie sets, the costumes are movie costumes, and so on. Yes, it is all beautifully rendered, but you can't buy into it as anything real.

The Hollywood Royalty Edition DVD edition offers a good but by no means flawless print of the film and several bonuses. It is unfortunate that they are not particularly illuminating. While director John Water's commentary is enjoyable, he approaches the film only as a fan. Even so, Water does make several telling points: many of the things that Crawford does which seem so odd (bathing the face in ice, for example) are actually commonplace cosmetic necessities for movie stars; many of the things the film treats as abuse were, although carried to wild extremes in the story, typical of child-rearing practices of the 1940s and 1950s.

There are also three short documentaries featuring a number of cast members, most notably Diana Scarwid; these are actually entertaining for the fact that those who appear still seem to regard the film as "a good movie." The only really significant interview is with Lypsinka, an artist who has driven Crawford impersonations to the level of wicked satire and high art, and who offers a number of interesting personal insights into the iconography involved.

Like the film itself, the bonus package has two great failures. The first is that Faye Dunaway does not appear in interview or commentary; it would be very interesting to have her own take on the film, its failures, and its afterlife. Given her sentiment, it is an understandable non-involvement; less understandable, however, that there is not so much as a potted biography of the actress--or indeed of any member of the cast, for there are no written notes of any kind.

The second great failure of the bonus package is that it contains no factual information on either Joan or Christina Crawford. There is no indication here that those who knew both women are sharply divided over the accuracy of the portraits both here and in the book by Christina Crawford from which the film is drawn. A number of people, including actresses Betty Hutton and June Allyson, supported Christina Crawford's accounts, but an equal number, including actress Myrna Loy and Christina's younger siblings, flatly stated that Christina's accusations were largely fictitious.

When all is said and done, and in spite of performances and moments that are actually extremely good in isolation, MOMMIE DEAREST is a film that falls under the "so bad it's good" category of cult films. While I am taken aback by the bizarre nature of the movie, I personally find the amusement involved almost as dark as the movie's plot; it is not among my cult film favorites. Even so, I can understand the appeal it has for others, and I give it five stars on that basis.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer

Reviewed by ggallegosgroupuk 4 / 10

There is another Joan in town

Wow! Have you seen Feud? Where Jessica Lange plays Joan Crawford and gives her all the humanity in all its infuriating contradictions. It made me see What Ever Happened To Baby Jane - it was like watching it for the first time, after "Feud" - and now "Mommie Dearest" - Oh dear, Oh dear - It's not that Faye Dunaway is not very entertaining, she is, but her Joan is a one note, maybe one note and a half, a caricature trying to be taken seriously. Was that the intention or was it an accident? Faye Dunaway, in a lengthy interview/tribute with Ben Mankiewicz at the TCM Film Festival, didn't mention Mommie Dearest once, nor Mr. Mankiewicz asked her about it. Was it a demand from the star, not to touch the subject? - That sounds so Crawford. Mommie Dearest, the film is like an amateur movie made by professionals. On the other hand I recommend you to check Jessica Lange's Joan Crawford in "Feud"

Reviewed by evanston_dad 8 / 10

Words Can't Do Justice

It seems almost pointless for me to add any comments here, since everyone else who's posted has done such a great job of summarizing this film's merits, but I can't resist. How do you rate a movie like this? On the one hand, it's one of the worst movies I've ever seen: completely lacking in coherence, shameful acting, writing so bad it seems to be making fun of itself. In fact, I'm still not convinced this movie isn't supposed to be a parody of Christina Crawford's book rather than a serious attempt to adapt it to the screen. On the other hand, it's such a rip-roarin' good time of a show that I'm tempted to give it 10 stars on the strength of its sheer entertainment value alone.

Faye Dunaway gives the most jaw-droppingly mesmerizing freak out ever captured on screen, whose bizarreness cannot even be topped by Halle Berry's Oscar acceptance speech. Dunaway must have realized early on that she was a rat in a sinking ship, but instead of deserting, she decides instead to devour the crew. I don't know if her performance comes anywhere close to capturing the real Joan Crawford, but if Crawford was even a tenth of a percent as loony as Dunaway portrays her here, I would have been high-tailing it to Canada if I were either of her children. The fabulous lines, many of which are quoted on this site, can't really be done justice when removed from the context in which they appear, and you really have to see the faces of the actors as they're delivering them to get the full effect. The wire hanger scene is of course a classic, but it's really the floor scrubbing scene immediately following, with Dunaway in kabuki makeup squatting on the floor like a Sumo wrestler, that remains more memorable. Watching Joanie jog is a sight to behold, especially when she starts talking to herself and scrunching her face up as if she's imitating Alvin or one of his chipmunks. There's the "I can handle the socks" moment, one of the most seductive moments (hee, hee) in film history, and of course the coup de grace comes when Joanie tackles Christina across the coffee table and begins banging her head into the floor like she's in a women's prison movie.

The editing in this film is atrocious. There's no sense of time; events follow each other in a loosely chronological fashion, but they don't make dramatic or narrative sense. Frank Perry, the director, must have been dozing off through much of this production; either that or his film crew carried out a mutiny, tied him up, threw him in a shed, and went ahead without him. But it seems churlish to criticize a film like this for its poor film making. It's like kicking a dead horse.

All I can say is, if you watch this movie with the right people in the right frame of mind (i.e. with alcohol), you will be howling. I watched this with a group in college, and we had to periodically pause the movie in order to allow everyone to recover before continuing. Thank you, Ms. Dunaway, for giving us "Mommie Dearest." The world will never be able to repay you for your kindness.

Grade: F or A+ (depending on your perspective and level of sobriety)

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