Movie Notes: Mommie Dearest

August 9, 2007

Note: This is an entry in the Second Webomatica Contest: So Bad They’re Good Movies

Mommie Dearest

0 stars
So Bad It’s Good Rating: -4 stars

Starring Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest
Directed by Frank Perry

Recently on Market Street I saw a mother shoving her screaming child into a stroller, hysterically shrieking all sorts of dramatics about teaching children to behave. Perhaps this was justified, but to an outside observer it just looked like a big person beating the crap out of a smaller, weak, helpless one. The added layer of public humiliation just made me feel terrible.

Well, if mom keeps it up, child eventually grows up and makes a film like Mommie Dearest – and I felt terrible watching it. It’s based on a tell-all memoir written by Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter, Christina. Joan Crawford, the famous actress, is played by Faye Dunaway (whom I really loved in Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown). Unfortunately, instead of a gorgeous gangster or femme fatale, here Dunaway plays a noxious hag.

Withering critiques of Hollywood’s effect on actresses can be compelling, as in All About Eve or Sunset Boulevard, but Mommie Dearest goes for the sensational and bizarre jugular. There’s nothing sympathetic about this abusive, nutcase Crawford character. We get zero introspection into her life history or why she behaves in such a neurotic-moronic manner.

Well, we do learn early on that Joan has an obsession with cleanliness and perfection, as she berates a housekeeper who neglects to polish the floor beneath a potted plant. Soon, Joan’s desire to raise a presumably perfect child means locking Christina in a pool dressing room, cutting off Christina’s hair, and destroying garden roses before taking a hatchet to an orange tree. Especially tense is a lunch where Christina refuses to eat rare, bloody steak, so Joan serves the same meal over and over until one of them cracks.

Eventually, Joan’s behavior becomes so random and bizarre that all I could do is meekly chuckle at the sheer nonsense of this witchy bitch gone bats. The most bizarre scenes:

The flick kinda-sorta works as a dark comedy, horror film, or camp masterpiece. A big element of the unintentional laughs is Dunaway’s acting, which drifts into caricature and eventually “drama queen” of the corny order. It doesn’t help that her costumes are often over-the-top, complete with painted-on eyebrows and an endless array of slightly askew hairstyles that have her resembling a wet, washed up drag queen.

I must mention the rather disturbing similarity of Mommie Dearest to Freddy Got Fingered, an equally awful film I recently reviewed, in which Tom Green attempts to “out compete” his father by hosing him down with elephant semen. Mommy Dearest is a battle between mother and daughter, perhaps displaying an “Electra” complex. Both films depict parents in a cruel, caricatured fashion which likely formed when the filmmakers were seven years old. And yes, by saying that, I do believe a seven year old could have written Mommie Dearest.

Comments

  1. “No Wire Hangers!!!” Absolute classic line that I happen to follow. Can’t stand putting clothing on those things!
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  2. vigilant20 says:

    Much as I had to admit that I’ve watched it, at least Freddy Got Fingered has some amusing parts to offset the disturbing. o/~ Daddy would you like some sausage?

  3. webomatica says:

    Heh – yep the sausage scene was a pretty funny part of FGF. I actually chuckled at some of that surreal random humor.

  4. Nice post. Have bookmarked your blog and will be sure to come back soon!