78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2001
I've always believed that this film has been misunderstood. Admittedly I can understand why people would laugh at scenes like the one where Faye Dunaway shouts to her daughter, "Tina bring me the ax!" But is child abuse really funny? I don't think so. I must admit that the scenes of child abuse, perhaps exploitative, are chilling and realistic. Thanks to the vivid performances by Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid and the actress who played young Christina, you really feel like you are in that house with these characters. You just want Joan to stop.
Faye Dunaway's career has never been the same since this film since it is now regarded as a camp classic, yet I think this is one of her best performances. She makes Joan a complicated woman: cruel, irrational, beautiful, pathetic, perhaps mentally ill and yet also sympathetic.
I don't know how accurate the film is and unfortunately Joan Crawford was never able to defend herself, but the film is based on the book, and it is true to the spirit of Christina Crawford's memoir: it is relentless, frightening, sad and unforgettable.
135 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2008
I don't know if this review will reach anyone. Hopefully someone. This dvd is a must for anyone who has seen this film and loved it or anyone who wants to see it. Also an excellent way to learn more about Joan Crawfod and more importantly, Faye Dunaway.
Dunaway disowns this part and I think I get why. The part took its toll on her emotionally and is, in my opinion, one of the greatest screen performances ever on film. And what did this gifted actress get in return? Bad reviews, jokes and a "cult" film on her behalf. Come on, I wouldn't really want to talk about it either.
Dunaway did take the time to express some feelings in her book Looking For Gatsby. So I would appreciate it if all you reviewers on amazon who trashed this film or (God help us) Dunaway herself, to read about the time and effort she put into this performance and how she did it. I'm sorry but i'm tired of people laughing at this movie and not taking it seriously. You can't throw descriptions like "over the top" at this woman because you lack perspective and appreciation of talent.
No one ever tore apart: Al Pacino in Scarface, Marlon Brando in the Godfather/Last Tango in Paris or Anthony Hopkins in Scilence of the Lambs (Hopkins,by the way,felt that her portrayal of Crawford is one of the best performances of all time). But when a woman dares to even come close to Marlon Brando's talent, people make fun of her. Also, Dunaway has made some other incredible films, i can't list them, it would take too long. Check out 3 Days of the Condor. She had to play second fiddle to Robert Redford and stole the show with a touching, sad and heartfelt character. Simply put,stop with the disrespectful reviews.
Now, this dvd did an incredible job with the extras. The commentarty with John Waters is hysterical but also very informative and touching in a way. The interviews with Diana Scarwid, Runalta Alda and Frank Yablins gives us even more information, gossip, background stories that help us understand the film and how it was made.
I hope this helps people who are interested in the dvd or are fans of Ms. Dunaway. The second reviewer of this dvd wanted to defend Crawford and I wanted to defend Ms. Dunaway. You can't defend one and not the other.
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2000
Faye Dunaway portrays Joan Crawford realistically and vividly in this emotionally-charged "true" story. She is excellent because she captures the desperation and vulnerability of the Movie Queen as well as her neuroses and ruthlessness. At stages, her mannerisms, voice and look are uncannily like Crawfords. I remember a review of a Joan Collins film called "The Bitch" in which a reviewer said "Only for campaholics who delight in the misfortunes of aging actresses." Doubtlessly, this film will attract this element, but lets hope viewers also see Crawfords pain as well as her toughness. She fought her way from scrubber to star. Is it any wonder that in her lower ebbs, she scrubbed floors to metaphorically keep everything perfect? One can empathise with Christina's bewilderment at her mothers outbursts, but we also see Crawfords difficulties. Some scenes are campy and superficial, but interest never wanes. Some scenes (especially near the end) are heartbreaking and equal Joan Crawfords oscar winning performance in "Mildred Pierce" in terms of emotional pathos.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2003
This movie is my #1 guilty-pleasure when it comes to movies. Yes, it is camp and over the top, but like they say, they don't make 'em like this anymore.
Of course, this movie would be NOTHING without the peerless Faye Dunaway. A virtual facial contortionist, she plays up every scene and mood change. She also is able to act the part of the Hollywood diva very well. And this movie is full of diva behavior. Take, for example, the scene in which she chops up the rose garden, dressed in haute couture, the side of her face bruised and cut. She mutters "box office poison" and all of the other awful things that Mayer told her, and makes her unfortunate small children haul away the wreckage. Then, she wields an axe like nobody's business. This is a priceless diva moment.
Mommie Dearest is full of similar moments. Take, for example, the scene that occurs shortly after she made Christina endure the swimming lesson from hell. Faye (Joan) coolly informs Christina that she will always be bigger and faster than her. Her face is perfectly made up, her hair wrapped in a white towel, a la Marilyn Monroe. She gives her young daughter a wonderful "top this, b...ch" look. She repeats this look, even more effectively, when Christina comes into her room to whine about her missing dolls in a later scene.
The rivalry between mother and daughter is very riveting. From the dramatic point of view, the actress that plays the child Christina is way better than the older Christina. Mara (young Christina) chews the scenery just as much as Faye. Take, for example, when she slowly closes the door after her mother accepts the award for the Oscar on her front porch. She stares at the paparazzi longingly, wanting to enjoy what her mother enjoys. Also, there is the scene when she walks in on her mother making out with the good-looking younger man. Instead of running out of the room, she stands there, Lolita-esque, just staring and staring. Her mother exacts her retribution by packing her off to boarding school!
Of course, the abuse scenes are the most effective of all. Try as I might, I can't sit through the sissors, wire hanger, or choke scenes without bursting into laughter. Call me sick, or jaded. Of the three, the wire hanger scene is the best. If they had stopped at the beating, that would have been enough, but then Joan goes further with it. She drags Christina into the bathroom, criticizes an obviously spotless floor (that she made her own young daughter clean when she has a maid (!) ), and then proceeds by showering her with cleaning powder. It really breaks my heart when I see young Christina there, teary-eyed, saying "Jesus Christ". I never laugh at that part. Then, her younger brother comes to help, and she begs him to go back to bed. Poor thing.
Older Christina is a disappointment. First, she has that twangy accent. Are we really to believe that Joan Crawford's daughter spoke this way? The most annoying part is when she flatly says, "We'll manage" (twice), in the scene when her mother tearfully tells her of losing another movie contract.
As for Faye Dunaway, I wish they hadn't made her say "I'm damn mad!" twice. That's the only line she utters that irritates me.
This is the one movie that I could watch endlessly. It is a tour de force, and camp to boot.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2002
In the last 15 years, I have seen "Mommie Dearest" more than 200 times (literally) since I first saw it on cable in 1987. I say that so you KNOW I know what I'm talking about in regard to this movie. I have been endlessly facinated by this film only because of the over-the-top performance by Miss Faye Dunaway. She just gets better and better everytime I see it. I only like the movie because of Miss Dunaway. Her entire style of acting is so fabulous, it overwhelms -- shades of how she would portray Joan Crawford are especially evident in the 1976 film, "NETWORK"...an example, "I've TOLD HIM LOU! I'VE TOLD HIM EVERY DAY THIS WEEK! NOW *YOU* TELL HIM!!!" as she slams down the phone with such force you think it will break in two! An absolute parallel to her technique with dialogue as Crawford.
HOWEVER, the film itself is actually TERRIBLE. It has NO similarity what-so-ever to the book, it creates characters that didn't exist, deleted those that DID, and the flow-through of this movie is a nightmare from hell. The continuity of this film is nill. That, I have deduced is due to HORRIBLE editing. I always sensed we were getting a watered down version of this film vs. what was originally produced. After just receently reading Christina Crawford's book "Survivor" where she states the original cut was over 4 hours long and then sliced in 1/2, my thoughts are confirmed.
For a DVD release, this film could have been SO MUCH BETTER. Given that this film is a major cult/camp classic, would it have been that difficult for the studio to have put out a special UNCUT double disc version of this film? OR at very LEAST, a 30 minute selection of deleted scenes coupled with a audio commentary by the producer/or director? If any of you have seen the DVD of "Mrs. Doubtfire", you know what I'm talking about in regard to the deleted scenes.
What makes me angry about the DVD is that they have a photo gallery of stills from the film that include DELETED scenes from the film. Why they put those stills in the movie and not atleast include the scenes is beyond me and it doesn't make sense. The stills I'm referring to are of 1) Dunaway as Joan happily driving her car onto the MGM lot for her meeting with Mr. Mayer RE: her status as box-office poison. 2) a scene in which Dunaway is very tenderly kneeling down to Mara Hobel (young Christina) to discuss something. THESE ARE SCENES I WANT TO SEE! I feel that after all the years of viewing this film, the fans are OWED a special edition. What's the point of that footage being locked in a vault when it could be released and improve the quality of this most unique film? Especially since they could charge DOUBLE for a special edition!!!!
HOWEVER, the one bright spot about this edition is that they did release it in the widescreen format and the digital remaster on video and audio are to me, impressive. I'm most pleased with the visual and audio quality of the DVD. Some people are not too happy with the clarity, but a movie filmed 20 years ago should NOT look like it was mastered in 2001!
The other high point is the original theatrical trailer which ends with the only voice-over of the whole thing, a meldodramatic 1 liner: "Joan Crawford. The most important role of her life WAS her life."
Of course, I must state that in regard to Miss Dunaway's scenes, her ultra-harsh delivery of the lines are too good to pass up. For those of you who haven't seen the film, I'll briefly sample two of my most favorite scenes, from the point of the dialogue:
"I work and work 'till I'm half dead, and I hear people saying 'She's getting old'! You live in the most beautiful house in Brentwood and you don't care about crease-marks from wire hangers!" -- "...yes, Mommie Dearest"--- "When I toll-d you to call me that, I wanted you to meeaaan it!" and "Trying to sweep the poor little widow under the carpet? Well, think again! This ain't my first time at the rodeo, I know how to win the hard way! You forget the press I delivered to Pepsi was MY power! I can use it anyway I want. It's a sword, cuts both ways". Exciting stuff, indeed!
In closing, while this edition is a total disapointment because of the lack of extras, it's the best you can get right now when it comes to this film, so go ahead and buy it anyway. Atleast, if you're new to Mommie Dearest, you won't be disapointed by Miss Dunaway's performance.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2007
While I have an absolute horror of any kind of child abuse I find that the film version of Christina Crawford's notorious book on growing up in the far from happy household of movie legend Joan Crawford is fascinating and indeed quite addictive viewing. Long adored by the "camp", film going community, "Mommie Dearest", is undoubtedly remembered for all the wrong reasons and I feel a viewing of it is like watching a multi car pile up in slow motion; you can't stand to see what's about to happen but you can't take your eyes off it. Being a devoted fan of Joan Crawford and her incredible Hollywood career spanning almost five decades I'm of course horrified at the way both the book and film tore her reputation to shreds. In order to be able to enjoy Faye Dunaway's wild performance as Joan Crawford whether it be total fiction or very close to the truth, I tend to separate this film from the real life movie legend and just go with all the over the top fun that makes "Mommie Dearest", such entertaining viewing. Faye Dunaway I believe is incredible in the title role despite it being far removed from how the character was originally planned to be depicted during the film's planning stage. The film certainly has a lavish look to it as befitting a major Paramount production and is filled with first rate period recreation, sensational costumes, and sets. On the camp side of things however it is a film littered with outrageous lines, bizzare laugh out loud dramatics, and two very scary abuse scenes that still send shivers up my spine. "Mommie Dearest", makes totally eye opening viewing of the first order and whether or not it accurately depicts the Hollywood Diva in a truthful light, it is essential viewing for any fans of old Hollywood and movie stars in general.
Is this story fact or fiction? I guess the majority of us will never really know. Considering the very divided opinions even from close contemporaries of Crawford's I have to assume "Mommie Dearest", holds some truths, however over the top they are depicted here, and also contains much that is fiction. The film certainly has remained in the public eye all these years since its release in 1981 because of its outrageous excesses and especially because of the white hot manic performance from Faye Dunaway in the lead role of Joan Crawford. Personally I couldn't imagine any other actress playing this part and Dunaway seems to be one of the few modern actresses that still seems to possess that old "Movie Queen", persona that is so apt here. In her performance she is at times savage, frightening, tragic, and yes even in a couple of short instances extremely vulnerable which makes it a riverting viewing experience. Of course the main joy of watching "Mommie Dearest", is in witnessing Faye Dunaway uttering some of the campiest and most unforgettably hilarious lines ever in a major motion picture. They alone deservedly earned the film an honoured place in the camp hall of fame. Who can forget Faye/Joan firing off such gems as,
"If you can't do something well DON'T do it at all!",
"If you want to clean the floor you need to MOVE the tree!",
"Helga I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the dirt!". (My favourite),
"Tina! Bring me the axe",
"Damm it! I may as well have "Property of MGM", tattooed on my backside!"
"I might have know you'd know where to find the booze AND the boys"
and how could any viewer ever forget their first shocked reaction to the now infamous,
"Don't f..k with me Fellas!!"
Beside all this the supporting players certainly have their work cut out for them trying to get a look in. Rutanya Alda as the (fictional) loyal personal attendant Carol Ann manages in her calm way to actually make an impression against the Dunaway juggernaut and both Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid who play Christina at different ages make an interesting team in bringing this obviously very complex and troubled character to the screen. The story begins in 1939 during production of one of Joan Crawford's lesser efforts in "Ice Follies of 1939", and progresses right through to Joan's death in 1977. Many aspects of her life are noticeably cut out in the film version such as the fact that Joan had two younger children who she also adapted, while Crawford's exit from MGM as depicted in the film is fictional as it was Joan herself who when going through one of her famed "reinventions", actually pulled the plug on MGM. Production wise Paramount went all out and spared no expense in bringing "Mommie Dearest", to the screen. The period recreation of the eras stretching from the late 1930's right up to the mid 1970's is first rate and the sets recreating Crawford's lavish Hollywood home, the MGM studios, and 1950's New York are certainly among the film's major strong points and often stand out in stark contrast to the rather trashy proceedings on screen,. Special mention I feel also needs to be directed towards famed costume designer Irene Sharaff's magnificent clothes for the film. With a long brilliant designing career in Hollywood already behind her I believe her costumes here rival in magnificence and attention to detail her earlier stunning work on 1963's "Cleopatra". Considering the total destruction this film and the earlier book did to Crawford's memory, Sharaff's creations alone certainly did the real life Movie Queen Joan Crawford proud and at least helped preserve her reputation as one of Hollywood's best dressed women during its far off golden age.
33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Okay- here is one that will keep you up at night. Faye Dunaway is deeply scary as Joan Crawford in this way-over-the-top screen adaptation of Christina Crawford's vituperative memoir. The opening scene sets the camp-fest tone: we are treated to a loooong sequence of Miss Crawford preparing for her movie shoot, which involves her scrubbing her face, elbows, and nails with what appears to be a Brillo pad before dousing them in boiling water and iced alcohol (I defy you not to think "morning cocktail, Joan?). At the end of the sequence, her face is revealed to us- Faye Dunaway with big hairy commas for eyebrows.
Faye's ferocious, wildly over-the-top performance seems to have been based on the conceit that Joan Crawford never had a moment off screen that she wasn't acting- except perhaps when she was being crazy and beating the kids or chopping down trees. There are a lot of conflicting reports on the character of Miss Crawford, some painting her as an ogre, some as an angel. Like most people, she most likely was something in between. It looks as if Frank Perry told Faye to keep Joan's performances in "Straight Jacket"' "Possessed" and "Queen Bee" at the front of her mind at all times, and act accordingly. Like these movies, she is supported by sub-B movie actors (Steve Forrest?!?), who manage to look like they are in fear for their lives throughout the whole movie. They should have been afraid for their careers.
Nobody can find the abuse of a child funny, but how can you not want to smack the gooey, calculating little Mara Hobel? The snivelling, robotic Diana Scarwid isn't much better (and her first appearance her southern accent is really jarring: "ah unduhstaaaaand")
Plus, the movie has a wierdly underpopulated look to it. For someone who was a star for fifty years, Joan seemed to have nobody around her (maybe it was the ax...). She runs her house with one nanny/secretary, and one maid whom we see for one scene. She has one boyfriend, and an "uncle" before marrying Al Steele- and we know that Joan was "popular". At the end of her life she is shown drinking her vodka on a lone mattress on the floor of her apartment, watching Tina accept an award for her. Except for the famous board room scene (which Faye plays like a hungry puma chained just out of reach of the meat counter) most of her scenes have one or two people in them. The Oscar win is really funny- she wins the Oscar when she is home "sick", then makes a grand speech to the throngs of photographers at the door. Except there are maybe 10 people total.
But this is all nit-picking. This movie is great in a train-wreck kind of way. It is so blindingly awful, yet clearly made with the intention of being an IMPORTANT MOVIE, that you can't help but giggle. Dunaway's wild gamble of a performance neatly derailed an Oscar-winning career; nobody could look at her without seeing Faye-as-Joan (Use the words "Mommie Dearest" around her at your peril) I give it 3 stars for the price of the DVD ([...] retail? Are you high?) and as for the lack of extras, I doubt you'd get any from Paramount on a movie that the director sued them to stop the advertising campaign for.
I demand a directors cut right now!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2009
This is an outstanding and utterly compelling movie. It is well-written, directed, acted, edited, scored (by Henry Mancini), costumed, cast, and photographed. Faye Dunaway's multi-level acting -- acting as she does the part of a woman who in her interpersonal relationships is herself acting much of the time -- is brilliant.
I realize that many have called the movie "camp" for the sometimes outlandish behavior depicted. And admittedly there is at times a darkly laughable irony in the spiritually troubled woman's scapegoatism of an innocent child, a lovely rose bush, and an immaculate tile floor.
But what the movie's detractors perhaps don't realize (or perhaps deny in their intense discomfort, being guilty of child abuse themselves) is that this is in fact how some parents behave, and the hard reality for some kids. There is no exaggeration involved!
So ignore the critics. Watch the movie, and judge for yourself.
While you're at it, read the book.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2000
This has been one of my absolute favorite films for years! The lines just race through the mind. And the scenes can be taken out of context for viginette fun!
The wire hanger sequence. Everyone knows the scene. Joan (played to death by Faye Dunaway) beats poor little Christina with a coat hanger, while her brother (does anyone know why he was strapped into his bed as if he were being launched into orbit?) is only a few feet away. But the best moment in that sequence, in my opinion, is when Christina is sitting on the bathroom floor, covered in powdered cleanser, lost in her particular brand of pathos. Absolutely hysterical!
Also, the tree. Look at Christina's face when Joan screams, "TINA! BRING ME THE AXE!" Would YOU give that woman an axe?
And the bloody steak. And the swimming contest ("I'm bigger and stronger and I will always beat you."). And the underlying "tension" when the radio personality asks the kids on the air what will happen after he and his crew leave. You can almost feel Christina wanting to say something about cans of Comet and raw meat.
Those responsible may well have set out to make a serious film. One can only speculate. What they have given us is some the best comedy this side of the Atlantic. An absolutely great movie, made better by the Faye Dunaway's over-the-top performance (William Shatner can't even play on this woman's field), that will stand as the perennial Mother's Day film for the ages.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 1999
Oh, but how much pleasure this absurd movie has brought to my life! I have wept in tears of laughter with friends constantly since 1982, when I watched the movie in the theatre in shock disbelief -- then, I was even somewhat disturbed. But taking this unbelievable mess of a wreck on its own deluded terms (what is it? a comedy? a drama? a freak show?) it is immensely enjoyable and camp heaven. Faye Dunaway is so monstrously working in this movie that she gets under your skin, and, forgive me, but I thought Diana Scarwid was a rare treat in this film -- she commands your attention with her bizarre and idiotic line readings. There is not one sequence in this film that does not inspire me to laugh, but among my faves are the swimming contest and older-Christina's acting moments and moments at the convent -- "sister these years have been harrrddd" -- Of course repeated viewings -- which I recommend with reservation, since it becomes creepily addictive -- inspire lunacy in the viewer, so I say: GO FOR IT!