The movie that made "No wire hangers!" a household phrase, Mommie Dearest is the very model of a modern "camp classic," so crazily outlandish that it's fascinating. Based on the scathing and scandalous tell-all bestseller ... more »by Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of histrionic Hollywood movie queen Joan Crawford, Mommie Dearest was billed in advance as a serious dramatic motion-picture biography. But it turned out to be something much, much weirder--a genuine Hollywood oddity that serves up a bizarre mixture of melodramatic trash and outrageous tragi-comedy. Joan Crawford won an Oscar for playing the role of the self-sacrificing mother, the woman who would do anything for her daughter, in Mildred Pierce. As depicted by Faye Dunaway (playing the hell out of the role as if she's determined to win another Oscar of her own, damn it!), her role as offscreen parent puts her in a league with big-time scary screen mommies such as Mrs. Bates in Psycho, and Angela Lansbury's über-mom in The Manchurian Candidate. Dunaway's Crawford torments and terrorizes her adopted children in myriad ways--making them give away their own birthday gifts and rousting them from their beds for frantic after-midnight bathroom-scrubbing attacks. And when, after the death of her Pepsico chairman husband, Crawford tells the board of directors, "Don't f--- with me, fellas!" one is very much inclined to heed her warning. --Jim Emerson« less
"Okay- here is one that will keep you up at night. Faye Dunaway is deeply scary as Joan Crawford in this way-over-the-top screen adaptation of Christina Crawford's vituperative memoir. The opening scene sets the camp-fest tone: we are treated to a loooong sequence of Miss Crawford preparing for her movie shoot, which involves her scrubbing her face, elbows, and nails with what appears to be a Brillo pad before dousing them in boiling water and iced alcohol (I defy you not to think "morning cocktail, Joan?). At the end of the sequence, her face is revealed to us- Faye Dunaway with big hairy commas for eyebrows.Faye's ferocious, wildly over-the-top performance seems to have been based on the conceit that Joan Crawford never had a moment off screen that she wasn't acting- except perhaps when she was being crazy and beating the kids or chopping down trees. There are a lot of conflicting reports on the character of Miss Crawford, some painting her as an ogre, some as an angel. Like most people, she most likely was something in between. It looks as if Frank Perry told Faye to keep Joan's performances in "Straight Jacket"' "Possessed" and "Queen Bee" at the front of her mind at all times, and act accordingly. Like these movies, she is supported by sub-B movie actors (Steve Forrest?!?), who manage to look like they are in fear for their lives throughout the whole movie. They should have been afraid for their careers.Nobody can find the abuse of a child funny, but how can you not want to smack the gooey, calculating little Mara Hobel? The snivelling, robotic Diana Scarwid isn't much better (and her first appearance her southern accent is really jarring: "ah unduhstaaaaand")Plus, the movie has a wierdly underpopulated look to it. For someone who was a star for fifty years, Joan seemed to have nobody around her (maybe it was the ax...). She runs her house with one nanny/secretary, and one maid whom we see for one scene. She has one boyfriend, and an "uncle" before marrying Al Steele- and we know that Joan was "popular". At the end of her life she is shown drinking her vodka on a lone mattress on the floor of her apartment, watching Tina accept an award for her. Except for the famous board room scene (which Faye plays like a hungry puma chained just out of reach of the meat counter) most of her scenes have one or two people in them. The Oscar win is really funny- she wins the Oscar when she is home "sick", then makes a grand speech to the throngs of photographers at the door. Except there are maybe 10 people total.But this is all nit-picking. This movie is great in a train-wreck kind of way. It is so blindingly awful, yet clearly made with the intention of being an IMPORTANT MOVIE, that you can't help but giggle. Dunaway's wild gamble of a performance neatly derailed an Oscar-winning career; nobody could look at her without seeing Faye-as-Joan (Use the words "Mommie Dearest" around her at your peril) I give it 3 stars for the price of the DVD ([...] retail? Are you high?) and as for the lack of extras, I doubt you'd get any from Paramount on a movie that the director sued them to stop the advertising campaign for.I demand a directors cut right now!"
Mommie Dearest - an underrated film
Tom | Toronto, Ontario | 06/18/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've always believed that this film has been misunderstood. Admittedly I can understand why people would laugh at scenes like the one where Faye Dunaway shouts to her daughter, "Tina bring me the ax!" But is child abuse really funny? I don't think so. I must admit that the scenes of child abuse, perhaps exploitative, are chilling and realistic. Thanks to the vivid performances by Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid and the actress who played young Christina, you really feel like you are in that house with these characters. You just want Joan to stop. Faye Dunaway's career has never been the same since this film since it is now regarded as a camp classic, yet I think this is one of her best performances. She makes Joan a complicated woman: cruel, irrational, beautiful, pathetic, perhaps mentally ill and yet also sympathetic.I don't know how accurate the film is and unfortunately Joan Crawford was never able to defend herself, but the film is based on the book, and it is true to the spirit of Christina Crawford's memoir: it is relentless, frightening, sad and unforgettable."
Diva on a rampage
Larry D. Rodriguez | Houston, TX | 02/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is my #1 guilty-pleasure when it comes to movies. Yes, it is camp and over the top, but like they say, they don't make 'em like this anymore.Of course, this movie would be NOTHING without the peerless Faye Dunaway. A virtual facial contortionist, she plays up every scene and mood change. She also is able to act the part of the Hollywood diva very well. And this movie is full of diva behavior. Take, for example, the scene in which she chops up the rose garden, dressed in haute couture, the side of her face bruised and cut. She mutters "box office poison" and all of the other awful things that Mayer told her, and makes her unfortunate small children haul away the wreckage. Then, she wields an axe like nobody's business. This is a priceless diva moment.Mommie Dearest is full of similar moments. Take, for example, the scene that occurs shortly after she made Christina endure the swimming lesson from hell. Faye (Joan) coolly informs Christina that she will always be bigger and faster than her. Her face is perfectly made up, her hair wrapped in a white towel, a la Marilyn Monroe. She gives her young daughter a wonderful "top this, b...ch" look. She repeats this look, even more effectively, when Christina comes into her room to whine about her missing dolls in a later scene.The rivalry between mother and daughter is very riveting. From the dramatic point of view, the actress that plays the child Christina is way better than the older Christina. Mara (young Christina) chews the scenery just as much as Faye. Take, for example, when she slowly closes the door after her mother accepts the award for the Oscar on her front porch. She stares at the paparazzi longingly, wanting to enjoy what her mother enjoys. Also, there is the scene when she walks in on her mother making out with the good-looking younger man. Instead of running out of the room, she stands there, Lolita-esque, just staring and staring. Her mother exacts her retribution by packing her off to boarding school!Of course, the abuse scenes are the most effective of all. Try as I might, I can't sit through the sissors, wire hanger, or choke scenes without bursting into laughter. Call me sick, or jaded. Of the three, the wire hanger scene is the best. If they had stopped at the beating, that would have been enough, but then Joan goes further with it. She drags Christina into the bathroom, criticizes an obviously spotless floor (that she made her own young daughter clean when she has a maid (!) ), and then proceeds by showering her with cleaning powder. It really breaks my heart when I see young Christina there, teary-eyed, saying "Jesus Christ". I never laugh at that part. Then, her younger brother comes to help, and she begs him to go back to bed. Poor thing. Older Christina is a disappointment. First, she has that twangy accent. Are we really to believe that Joan Crawford's daughter spoke this way? The most annoying part is when she flatly says, "We'll manage" (twice), in the scene when her mother tearfully tells her of losing another movie contract. As for Faye Dunaway, I wish they hadn't made her say "I'm damn mad!" twice. That's the only line she utters that irritates me.This is the one movie that I could watch endlessly. It is a tour de force, and camp to boot."
Dunaway Is As Good As Brando Ever Was
British Boy Toy | atlanta, ga. | 07/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know if this review will reach anyone. Hopefully someone. This dvd is a must for anyone who has seen this film and loved it or anyone who wants to see it. Also an excellent way to learn more about Joan Crawfod and more importantly, Faye Dunaway.
Dunaway disowns this part and I think I get why. The part took its toll on her emotionally and is, in my opinion, one of the greatest screen performances ever on film. And what did this gifted actress get in return? Bad reviews, jokes and a "cult" film on her behalf. Come on, I wouldn't really want to talk about it either.
Dunaway did take the time to express some feelings in her book Looking For Gatsby. So I would appreciate it if all you reviewers on amazon who trashed this film or (God help us) Dunaway herself, to read about the time and effort she put into this performance and how she did it. I'm sorry but i'm tired of people laughing at this movie and not taking it seriously. You can't throw descriptions like "over the top" at this woman because you lack perspective and appreciation of talent.
No one ever tore apart: Al Pacino in Scarface, Marlon Brando in the Godfather/Last Tango in Paris or Anthony Hopkins in Scilence of the Lambs (Hopkins,by the way,felt that her portrayal of Crawford is one of the best performances of all time). But when a woman dares to even come close to Marlon Brando's talent, people make fun of her. Also, Dunaway has made some other incredible films, i can't list them, it would take too long. Check out 3 Days of the Condor. She had to play second fiddle to Robert Redford and stole the show with a touching, sad and heartfelt character. Simply put,stop with the disrespectful reviews.
Now, this dvd did an incredible job with the extras. The commentarty with John Waters is hysterical but also very informative and touching in a way. The interviews with Diana Scarwid, Runalta Alda and Frank Yablins gives us even more information, gossip, background stories that help us understand the film and how it was made.
I hope this helps people who are interested in the dvd or are fans of Ms. Dunaway. The second reviewer of this dvd wanted to defend Crawford and I wanted to defend Ms. Dunaway. You can't defend one and not the other."
"Say it like you mean it!"
Matthew McWilliams | 02/09/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Faye Dunaway portrays Joan Crawford realistically and vividly in this emotionally-charged "true" story. She is excellent because she captures the desperation and vulnerability of the Movie Queen as well as her neuroses and ruthlessness. At stages, her mannerisms, voice and look are uncannily like Crawfords. I remember a review of a Joan Collins film called "The Bitch" in which a reviewer said "Only for campaholics who delight in the misfortunes of aging actresses." Doubtlessly, this film will attract this element, but lets hope viewers also see Crawfords pain as well as her toughness. She fought her way from scrubber to star. Is it any wonder that in her lower ebbs, she scrubbed floors to metaphorically keep everything perfect? One can empathise with Christina's bewilderment at her mothers outbursts, but we also see Crawfords difficulties. Some scenes are campy and superficial, but interest never wanes. Some scenes (especially near the end) are heartbreaking and equal Joan Crawfords oscar winning performance in "Mildred Pierce" in terms of emotional pathos."