Based on one of the most controversial memoirs of all time, Mommie Dearest is based on the relationship between Academy Award-winning Hollywood actress Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) and her adopted daughter Christina (Diana Scarwid). Both the movie and the book expose the mother as an alcoholic domineering control freak whose film career is hanging on a loose thread. Without going too much into detail about which parts are fabricated or otherwise, I believe that Mommie Dearest needed to be more about Christina than her mother, trekking deeper through her psychosis and emotional struggle. Frank Perry could have had Christina in her apartment writing the story and giving visual context to her childhood trauma to the viewers. Instead, the movie plays like a traditional biopic that shows events that happened to Joan Crawford and exploits the melodramatic child abuse scenes. However, when it gets to the sentimental and quieter parts, the movie feels tone-deaf and empty because the audience gets distracted by the shocking scenes as well as Faye Dunaway’s laughable overacting. Speaking of distractions, the movie left me with serious questions such as, “Why would Joan tie her adoptive son Christopher to the bed with a parachute strap?” and “Who would allow 10-year-old Christina to serve alcohol behind the bar?” Maybe those instances happened in real life, but you don’t just brush away such mean-spirited plot details as minor quirks and never bring them up again. When you do, you create lazy exploitation, especially in a movie centered on child abuse. With that said, not only is Mommie Dearest a tonally uneven film, but also a gigantic waste of opportunity.
(1 ½ Wire Hangers out of 5)
Mommie Dearest review