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Masterpiece: Mommie Dearest




Is Mommie Dearest a camp masterpiece or a tale of a movie icon and the harrowing abuse her children allegedly suffered at her hands? Well it can be seen that Frank Perry's 1981 film on the life of Joan Crawford meets both these criteria. Adapted from Christina Crawford's 1978 exposé of the same name, the film was a commercial success but torn apart by critics, dominating the Razzie awards. Needless to say, here at Silver Screen Slags, we love it and here's why.

The epitome of glamour
The best way to sum up Mommie Dearest would be comparing it to 80s supersoap, Dynasty combined with a Joan Crawford box set and a handful of Lifetime movies. It may be trashy and sloppily made but it grips from start to finish, most noticeably through Faye Dunaway's grandiose performance. Dunaway is like a steam train crushing through the film, sending anything or anyone that steps in front of her flying miles. Physically, she is Joan Crawford - the transformation is remarkable and utterly convincing, regardless of how outlandish the film becomes. However, it is Dunaway's performance in these outlandish moments that make the film the trashterpiece that it is. I'm sure everyone will be aware of the infamous "No wire hangers, ever!" scene or the moments where Crawford destroys her rose garden in full evening wear  with the unforgettable "Tina! Bring me the axe!" line. Amongst many others there is also the hilarious fight sequence between Christina and her mother- where Crawford pounces on her daughter, smashing her through a glass table.

The epitome of gardening glamour - evening gown & axe
However, Mommie Dearest is not all camp frivolity and the tone of Perry's film has the ability to change drastically within seconds - becoming a chilling and intense. This atmospheric change mainly arrives when the maltreatment of young Christina is shown in the first hour of the film. In her early years, Christina is played by a wonderful young actress - Mara Hobel, who's an astounding talent at the age of ten. One particularly horrific sequence sees young Christina playing with her mothers perfumes and hair sprays, Crawford storms in distraught and proceeds to hack away at her daughters hair exclaiming "I'd rather you go bald to school than looking like a tramp". We Need To Talk About Kevin, you've got nothing on this masterpiece.

On the subject of dialogue, it's marvelously well written and delivered, most notably seen in the genius Pepsi boardroom scene where Crawford screams "Don't fuck with me fellas. This ain't my first time at the rodeo." If that's not enough to make you switch from Coke to Pepsi, then I don't know what is.

There are some awful flaws in Perry's film including Diana Scarwid's hilariously bad supporting performance as an older Christina - the poor girl stood no chance acting against the might of The Dunaway. There's also no logical track of time throughout, years pass, characters die without ever fully being explored in the film's rigid episodic structure. These factors are not going to hinder your enjoyment of Mommie Dearest and will most likely add to it's lovable charm.

Mommie Dearest manages to be trashy and classy, dark yet comic melodrama, filled with high camp value. Faye Dunaway's powerhouse performance is truly brilliant, she is Joan Crawford, bringing so much to the role that no other actress could. The overacting works to recreate the larger than life Hollywood icon in this darkly camp masterpiece.


Review 7429388328159686571

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