|Mommie Dearest (DVD, 2006, Canadian; Hollywood Royalty Edition) (DVD, 2006)|
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I'm rating this controversial biopic by the quality of the film, cast, acting, DVD features, etc., not rating the veracity of the biography by Christina Crawford, upon which this film is based. Both of MGM 20th century movie star, Joan Crawford's, adopted children, combined with numerous adult observers who've gone on biographical filmed record, make similar claims: this movie-star abused 2 of her adopted children. That's what "Mommie Dearest" asserts.
Joan Crawford's following refuses to accept Christina Crawford's biography; preferring to proclaim "Mommie Dearest" to be 'hysterically funny', 'high camp' that's 'over-the-top'. People who believe & identify with the patterns of child abuse the author describes say they feel empathy for both adopted Crawford children, the 2 depicted in "Mommie Dearest."
This Hollywood Royalty Edition DVD is an excellent transfer of the film. It includes several special features. Director, John Waters', comments are from the perspective of a flaming gay fan of Joan Crawford's, who idolizes the movie star. Waters dismisses Crawford's extreme behaviors as if they're essential for movie stars. Waters' biases flair up as he accuses the filmmakers & biographer of hyperbole, as if the scenes on the screen are (in his bizzare imagination) typical of how children were raised between the 40's-60's. To that I say 'bunk'. I was raised during that period & such actions, even if portrayed in an understated way, are nonetheless child abuse.
Three documentaries feature interviews of cast members such as Diana Scarwid & a Crawford impersonator, Lypsinka, who considers the abuse of children by Joan Crawford a subject about which to make campy jokes for a living.
Faye Dunaway delivers the performance of a lifetime playing the deranged perfectionist who bought children from a black market; exploited them for her public images' benefit; & is mercilessly cruel. Who wants to believe this?
Faye Dunaway isn't interviewed during the commentaries, leaving a wide gap open. This omission is likely because Dunaway remained virtually silent about the biopic since the public turned a serious portrayal of a fallen star into gay drag, high camp sport. Why dismiss her work?
The special features lack actual data about Christina, Christopher & Joan Crawford. What's missing is any debate about how accurately both the biography & the biopic depict the 3 main family members. Quite a few reputable people, including June Allyson & Betty Hutton attest to the biographer's accounts of Crawford's abusiveness gays deny.
This is a heavy, emotional, portrayal of an infamous movie star by a terrific character actress who does Joan Crawford far better than any hysterics of a drag queen! I love a good drag show; but, I couldn't unsympathetically dismiss a woman's account of being emotionally & physically abused as men drag queens do. Perhaps carrying a torch for 'Joannie Dearest' is a form of identifying with a person who's hated for being WHAT they are.
Reviewers joined bandwagons calling "Mommie Dearest" "so bad it's good," & turned it into a gay cult classic. I refuse to take sides for Joan or Christina. Instead, I review the film as one of the more controversial because the movie star depicted as a social climber, who stopped at nothing to be famous, reveals a very dark plot: the classic case of child abuse no one believes. Because the film succeeds in doing so, it brings a taboo topic, hidden in US families' closets, OUT~
Faye Dunaway plays Joan Crawford as a determined survivor of the Hollywood system of the 1940's and 1950's. Additionally, we see her take out her frustrations particularly on her adopted daughter Christina (Diana Scarwid), and that is what we remember most. We see Joan marry a Pepsi Cola executive for money when she hits a financial lowpoint and then challenges the Pepsi board of directors to keep her from becoming a major executive herself in the company when he dies. Finally, we see an obsessive-compulsive woman that cleans everthing to the hilt and expects everyone in the household to participate in her over-the-top behavior at home.
Joan adopted Christina and her brother Christopher because she wanted children and couldn't have babies. She says in one scene that she miscarried many times while married to Franchot Tone. But deep down, the adoptions were a publicity stunt, which Joan played to the hilt. We see her in one scene giving a fabulous birthday party for Christina and in another hosting a radio program at Christmas with her little children waiting to open presents.
When Christina started growing older and interfering in Joan's love life, Joan shipped her off to boarding school. At first, Christina resented being shipped away but then grew to love the freedom from all the violence. She was studying acting and always imitating her famous mother, but then she made the mistake of becoming involved with a boy.
What we remember most about this movie is the violent behavior and abuse of Christina: the bathroom cleaning mess, the outrage at wire coat hangers in Christina's closet, the scissors devastating Christina's hair, the garden butchering of the roses and the tree ("Christina, BRING ME THE AX!), and most of all the strangling in the living room when a grown Christina delivers the absolute biggest blow of all: "I am not one of your fans!"
Critics hated this movie, and Faye Dunaway refused to appear in any of the special feature documentaries that accompany the DVD. It is said that Faye thought that her portrayal of Joan Crawford ruined her Hollywood career. Ironically, it is stated in one of the features that Joan Crawford predicted that someday Faye Dunaway would play her in a movie.
This movie shows how especially delicate was the studio relationship of all of our favorite old stars. Called "box office poison" one minute and "Hollywood royalty" the next, Joan rises from the dust after Warner Brothers terminated her contract. The very next year she won the Oscar for "Mildred Pierce."
This movie is for anyone who is interested in Joan Crawford, the Hollywood star system, or in child abuse.
Ironically, when Joan cuts Christina and Christopher out of her will, Christopher says that his mother always gets the last word. But Christina says "Maybe not this time." And her famous book and this movie are the result.
Synonomous with Joan Crawford's name is child abuse of the most extreme type of emotional torture of two adopted children. This movie is based upon their stories and written by Christina Crawford, the girl that was abused by Crawford.
The movie aptly depicts Crawford as a casting couch climber whose obsession with fame and fortune were a product of an terribly demented ego. Therefore, she over-estimated her own talent and abilities & held awfully unrealistic expectations for those she could most easily manipulate. Due to her affluence & stardom, Crawford escaped being held accountable for the most grievous types of immorality imaginable.
This is the story of her life through her abuse surviving eldest adult child's eyes. The story is backed up by her abused brother, Christopher, as well as numerous of Hollywood's most renowned adults in show business, who knew of Crawford's mistreatment of her two eldest children.
The film is riveting largely due to the fine performance of Faye Dunaway. Dunaway was in a most unenviable position to portray an over-rated celebrity revealing her as she was behind closed doors. In fact, Crawford was so arrogant as to be abusive with her children outdoors, on film and in broad daylight!
Still her most die hard fans remain in denial also playing the martyr as Crawford so often did herself. Rarely does Hollywood dare to reveal the personal flaws so blatantly in the film based up a nonfiction book. Dunaway became a cast out, hated by Crawford fans and suffered a career threatening set back for playing this role.
Some one had to. Obviously, Dunaway's acting career has soared regardless of how horribly she had been blackballed by Crawford fanatics.
This film is a fascinating study of the dynamics of mother daughter child abuse and child survival. The film has a cathartic effect for female survivors of child abuse. Thus, its social value is quite clear: it serves one of the most underserved US minorities--abused children who survived. Highly recommended for survivors and idol worshippers of Joan Crawford.
John Waters is surprisingly sensitive and sympathetic to all participants in this movie, which was somewhat controversial when it first came out. Of course, the provocative nature of the story--a monstrous Joan Crawford abusing her adopted children--was the original tease which drew audiences in healthy numbers although the critics despised the entire premise. Audiences laughed during 'inappropriate' moments, such as Crawford bellowing for an ax to cut down a rose tree, beating the daughter nearly senseless because of an cheap wire coathanger, and the impulsive attempt to strangle her in the presence of a reporter--the audiences shrieked with hilarity at the sight of teen-aged Christina's panties as she rolled on the floor, struggling to fend off her mother's crazed assault. Crawford, herself, does a noteworthy roll on the floor during the same incident, as she wrests for control of rage that has grown too toxic to go back in the bottle.
But enough glimpses. "Mommie Dearest" was designed as a serious movie, intended by the real daughter to follow her expose book, which Christina considered an innovative and valuable examination of child abuse. Many fans of Joan Crawford rejected that view and considered Christina's efforts to be acts of revenge against her mother for cutting her out of any inheritance. So, like an new-wave crystal, this gem of a rainy-day flick (as John Waters describes it) has many facets; it glitters with beautiful costumes, impressive sets, and big-budget swagger; it casts sparks of light on the stress of being a movie star; and it fairly vibrates with the power of Fay Dunaway's uncompromising performance as Joan Crawford. All of the actors and actresses are excellent, but Dunaway clearly perceives her role as a calling, a tribute perhaps, to the survival instincts of a long-lived superstar, and shows her dark side with the same tenacity that Crawford devoted to preserving her career. The claws, glamorous and red, if pointed, are in constant view of the audience.
There is humor, perhaps unintended, but no less enjoyable. The movie retains many die-hard fans who have seen it over and over and there is a reason for that. The basic story of a poor little rich girl, a movie star's daughter, who is tortured by her own mother has a fairy tale appeal. Then the mother is the evil queen in a Disney flick: elegant, terrifying, and all-powerful. And the Little Victim is the child in all of us, who can easily recall being served up with some of the identical punishments or put-downs. Who will win in the end, Mommy or Little Victim? We witness the pain of both, and are often torn by wanting to cheer for both; in spite of Crawford's cruelty, we sense it is born of desperation and side with her to the end.
The special appeal of this DVD is the presence of John Waters, of course. His black humor, keen observation, and Hollywood experience add a fabulous richness to the viewing. What was unexpected to me was his compassion and down-home friendliness to us, the audience, and the movie itself. I can't think of a better companion to watch a movie with-- the version with the commentary is much the same as having him stretched on the sofa behind you, not at all snobby, chatty and comfortably engaged in eating cold pizza or whatever happens to be on the coffee table. Part of the family, in other words! What could be better?
Just don't take the child abuse part too seriously and you'll have fun!
PLOT: "HATCHET JOB" (lol) ON her Mother JOAN CRAWFORD~ by Christina Crawford ....BIO that shows the dark side of Screen actress Joan~
JOAN CRAWFORD LOVES MEN and they love her~ having many different affairs with many men we see this interesting and yet CAMPY bio of her~ Joan was as screen idol and legend. But Joan decides she will adopt children~ she USES THEM AS A PROP FOR PUBLICITY~ Faye Dunaway IS JOAN~ from the El Marko black eyes to ruby red lipstick to the brittle LOOKS and voice~ she is so good we are scared of her~ Joan adopts cute little blonde Christina aka TINA~ and Christopher where she IS a harsh mean mother~but Tina has a mind of her own! excellent acting by Mara Hobel as the child JOAN cannot bend~ from making the children clean obsessively~ to posing for "staged" photos Joan uses everyone~ the legendary coat hanger abuse scene is shocking but WE believe it happened~ AS Joan ages her movie rolls decrease and she is released from her contract but takes up a role and wins an OSCAR for Mildred Pierce~ we feel just about every scene is a performance for JOAN~ this is camp and hokey~ but the over all gem is that Joan was Hollywood Royalty but was a horrible person and parent. As Christine grows up Joan required the kids to say "Mommy Dearest" especially in front of the camera~ the best scene is where JOAN looses it in front of a reporter~ excellent ~ when Joan finally dies she leaves Christopher and Tina NO inheritance for "reasons they know .' even in death she has cheated her children of love let alone what they should have inherited~ but TINA got the last laugh the shocking BIO was a best seller and is the plot for this DETAILED "HATCHET JOB" ON JOAN~ I LIKED THIS MOVIE~ it maybe camp but it has a disturbing message~ Joan was a VERY unbalance DISTURBED person and everyone covered for her~ sad her children has to live her "staged" Mother Performances.
I GIVE THIS ONE 7 OUT OF 10 FOR SHOCKING REALITY BIO~ FAYE NAILS JOAN~ TOO BAD people did not realize how hard it is to play MEAN~ let alone NUTS~
IF YOU FOUND THIS REVIEW HELPFUL PLEASE REMEMBER TO VOTE~