Mommie Dearest (1981)

Rating: C

Dir: Frank Perry
Star: Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Mara Hobel

Got to question the accuracy of this Joan Crawford warts-n-all pic, since it’s based on a book by her adopted daughter, peeved at being left out of Mommy’s will and keen for revenge. Certainly, there are some factual errors – Crawford adopted four kids, not two. Regardless, there is one scene here which will certainly make even the least parental (that’d be me) cringe, and will change the way you look at dry-cleaners forever. There’s not much here in the way of narrative coherence, beyond cherry-picked “highlights” from daughter Christina’s life with her mother; I have to say, the little girl comes over as a spoilt brat.

Dunaway is great though, whether engaging in a little moonlight arboriculture, or spitting out her line to the board of Pepsi-Cola: “Don’t fuck with me, fellas – this ain’t my first time at the rodeo.” When she’s not around, being nasty to her children, the pace slows, and the movie loses much of its direction. Scarwid lacks much in the way of redeeming features, and you find yourself eagerly waiting for Dunaway’s return, simply to see what the hell she’s going to do next. Take over for her daughter on a soap opera? Why the hell not! Lurid, and certainly biased (when not straight-up wrong), this is tabloid cinema – and like all tabloids, deserves a quick scan, taken with a large pinch of salt.