Movie Review – Mommie Dearest (1981)

Based on the book in which Christina Crawford details her abusive treatment by her mother, Joan Crawford, this book adapts that story and shows the life of the actress and her daughter. It’s a fascinating film really. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a good one but it was interesting. 

Faye Dunaway gave an incredible performance as the unhinged, insecure actress. She went through a whole range of emotions and nailed the emotional outbursts. I have to reserve special praise for Mara Hobel as well, the actress who played the young Christina, because she provided a balanced counterpoint to the erratic Joan Crawford. As a film this isn’t that good. The editing especially is awful as the progression of time is handled badly. Some of the acting is pretty poor as well (aside from Dunaway). The main problem is that Joan Crawford seems so over-the-top that her treatment of Christina loses some of its impact. 

The whole film itself is suspect since the book was written after Joan Crawford died, so we’re only getting one side of the story. This isn’t to dispel Christina’s life entirely, but it does raise some suspicions. After a little reading there doesn’t seem to be any grand consensus as to the accuracy of the events depicted, and I’m sure there is some truth to them it just depends to what extent. It’s probably going to be impossible to know what really happened since a lot of it would have been behind closed doors. I did find it interesting how Christopher, Christina’s brother, was almost a non-entity in the film. Surely he would have been subject to the same or similar treatment and yet he’s barely involved. 

It’s an interesting look at how fame can affect someone and how the pressures of an overbearing mother can affect a child. I’m sure there has to be some truth in there somewhere, but I personally wouldn’t take everything in this film as being a completely 100% accurate account. As a film itself it’s only really worth watching for Dunaway’s performance. 

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