Mommie Dearest (1981)

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Cast: Faye Dunaway…nobody else that famous.

Synopsis: An aging movie star/drag queen decides to buy a couple of kids on the black market and then abuses them while wearing a fabulous array of sequined ball gowns.

This is, without a doubt, one of the best drag queen movies I have ever seen which is weird considering that the movie doesn’t have a single drag queen in it. I know the movie is big on the drag queen circuit but it’s hard to articulate why that might be. Maybe it’s Dunaway’s larger than life portrayal of Joan Crawford or the opulence of her lifestyle. Either way, it’s a strange result considering the movie is kind of a catalogue of ways you can abuse your child.

The acting in this movie is actually pretty good at times. I have to admit that I was surprised by the young girl’s performance, especially in the scenes where she gets wailed on by Faye Dunaway. The moment where Joan cuts off the girl’s hair was absolutely terrifying. I’m not even sure they told the girl it was going to happen. Similarly, the wire coat hanger scene was intense. I mean, the girl gets ajax thrown at her. The peculiar thing about it all though is that the abuse is strangely comical, especially when the girl’s grown up and we have a 30 year old woman playing a 15 year old. I guess that makes me a bad person. Dunaway’s performance is kind of like a roller coaster: it has its ups and downs as well as its crazy-ass loops. When you’re playing someone as (supposedly) crazy as Joan Crawford was I guess you need to throw in the occasional fruit-loop moment such as chopping down a tree in a ball gown that probably costs as much as my apartment does in a year.

In terms of technique, this film has a strange Hollywood Golden Age feel to it, especially when one of the men shakes Joan around for a while in a scene that kind of underscores how brutal domestic violence can be. I can see what it was trying to accomplish but I’m not sure it was entirely successful. Case in point, the lingering shots of Joan Crawford’s drag queen clown face at the end of every scene. Those shots were a lot more common in older movies but not so much now so it ends up looking hilariously OTT.

This movie won a lot of razzies and it’s easy to see why. It lacks any form of subtlety and it’s those sorts of movies that tend to sweep the razzies. It’s my dream to go the razzies. I bet it’s a lot of fun. Anyway, I digress. I don’t see the ‘slap you round the face with a wire coat hanger’ mentality of the film as much of a problem, however. If anything it makes a nice change from the sort of stuff I usually watch. I think this is the sort of movie that straddles the thin line between ‘great’ and ‘criminally insane.’ It’s up to you to decide what side of the line it falls on.

High-lights:

  • “THAT….is a liiieee”…”Why did you adopt me?”…”BECAUSE I AM NOT ONE OF YOUR FANS!!!” AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH through the glass coffee table! Brilliant.
  • “There’s a liquor store to the right…” One of the smartest lines of the movie.
  • NO WIRE HANGERS!!!! EVER!!!!!
  • There’s something funny about watching a grown woman play a 15 year old in a beret.
  • Faye Dunaway stroking her legs as if they were a loaded gun.

Downers:

  • It is a movie about child abuse which is rather depressing.
  • Knowing that I will never be rich enough to waltz around my house in a ball gown…not that I would ever do that but I’d at least like to know that I had the money to do it if I wanted to.

Summary:

I think this is a movie that could really divide people. I’m on the side that finds it terribly funny. If you’ve seen the movie before and know that you like it I think you can be more flexible with your choice of strain. If you’re new to the film I’d recommend a sativa; something that’s going to make you giggly. I strongly recommend this for group viewings. If you watch it on your own it might just depress you what with all the abuse and everything. At the very least, this movie will make you appreciate your mom a whole lot more.

8/10

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5 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Drama, Great

5 responses to “Mommie Dearest (1981)

  1. Have always wanted to see this just haven’t gotten a chance to yet!

  2. Oh yeah, it’s a classic. “Christina!!! Get the axe!”

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