Classic Movie Watchlist 2018

Classic Movie Of The Week: Mommie Dearest (1981)

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Starring: Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid

Director: Frank Perry

Joan Crawford was a huge star, starting in the 1930’s and managing to have a respected career for decades, garnering Oscars and huge salaries. She was the queen of Hollywood. But in 1978, her adopted daughter Christina published a book called Mommie Dearest, which exposed the horror and abuse that she suffered at the hands of Joan. The book was a huge bestseller, and showed the other side of Joan, of an alcoholic, a narcissist who was barely in control, and expected a crazy level of perfection from her adopted children.

This film is the adaptation of Christina’s story into a film. And it’s insane.

Crawford was not impressed with modern actors and once said that the only one that she respected was Faye Dunaway. Ironic that it would be Faye who would play her. It’s hard to know where to start to talk about Dunaway in this film. Physically, she IS Joan Crawford, her transformation and mannerisms are uncanny, and yet, the director has her play the part to intensely that she is at 100% intensity at all times. While this must have felt right during filming, what results is a laughable, over the top performance. It almost ruined Dunaway’s career.

And yet, that’s what makes this film such a camp classic. It’s truly awful what happens to Christina, it must have been a terrifying childhood (two of her siblings deny there was any abuse, so it was a controversial biography). But in this film, it’s all melodrama. It’s more Flowers In The Attic than anything. And that’s actually what makes it so great. It’s just so much, so intense and Crawford is so insanely crazy. She’s quite terrifying in some scenes.

So, perhaps this film is more of a cult classic camp film than a true classic, and yet, there’s something about this film. It’s kind of hilarious sometimes and it’s quite a ride. The book and this film did a lot to change the public face of Crawford, so it’s kind of an interesting phenomenon for that reason too, though if you want the full story, the book seems to be more insightful than the film, which leaves things out. Either way, worth seeing for Dunaway as Crawford.

See It If: a camp and hugely OTT film, this one is more a hilarious cult classic than great cinema. A melodrama of epic proportions.


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