The relationship between Christina Crawford and her adoptive mother Joan Crawford is presented from Christina's view. Unable to bear children, Joan, in 1940, was denied children through regular adoption agencies due to her twice divorced status and being a single working person. Her lover at the time, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lawyer Greg Savitt, was able to go through a brokerage to adopt a baby girl, who would be Christina, the first of Joan's four adoptive children. Joan believes that her own difficult upbringing has made her a stronger person, and decides that, while providing the comforts that a successful Hollywood actress can afford, she will not coddle Christina or her other children, she treating Christina more as a competitor than a daughter. Joan's treatment of Christina is often passive-aggressive, fueled both by the highs and lows of her career, the narcissism that goes along with being an actress, and alcohol abuse especially during the low times. However, Joan sees much of ...Written by
It seems almost pointless for me to add any comments here, since everyone else who's posted has done such a great job of summarizing this film's merits, but I can't resist. How do you rate a movie like this? On the one hand, it's one of the worst movies I've ever seen: completely lacking in coherence, shameful acting, writing so bad it seems to be making fun of itself. In fact, I'm still not convinced this movie isn't supposed to be a parody of Christina Crawford's book rather than a serious attempt to adapt it to the screen. On the other hand, it's such a rip-roarin' good time of a show that I'm tempted to give it 10 stars on the strength of its sheer entertainment value alone.
Faye Dunaway gives the most jaw-droppingly mesmerizing freak out ever captured on screen, whose bizarreness cannot even be topped by Halle Berry's Oscar acceptance speech. Dunaway must have realized early on that she was a rat in a sinking ship, but instead of deserting, she decides instead to devour the crew. I don't know if her performance comes anywhere close to capturing the real Joan Crawford, but if Crawford was even a tenth of a percent as loony as Dunaway portrays her here, I would have been high-tailing it to Canada if I were either of her children. The fabulous lines, many of which are quoted on this site, can't really be done justice when removed from the context in which they appear, and you really have to see the faces of the actors as they're delivering them to get the full effect. The wire hanger scene is of course a classic, but it's really the floor scrubbing scene immediately following, with Dunaway in kabuki makeup squatting on the floor like a Sumo wrestler, that remains more memorable. Watching Joanie jog is a sight to behold, especially when she starts talking to herself and scrunching her face up as if she's imitating Alvin or one of his chipmunks. There's the "I can handle the socks" moment, one of the most seductive moments (hee, hee) in film history, and of course the coup de grace comes when Joanie tackles Christina across the coffee table and begins banging her head into the floor like she's in a women's prison movie.
The editing in this film is atrocious. There's no sense of time; events follow each other in a loosely chronological fashion, but they don't make dramatic or narrative sense. Frank Perry, the director, must have been dozing off through much of this production; either that or his film crew carried out a mutiny, tied him up, threw him in a shed, and went ahead without him. But it seems churlish to criticize a film like this for its poor film making. It's like kicking a dead horse.
All I can say is, if you watch this movie with the right people in the right frame of mind (i.e. with alcohol), you will be howling. I watched this with a group in college, and we had to periodically pause the movie in order to allow everyone to recover before continuing. Thank you, Ms. Dunaway, for giving us "Mommie Dearest." The world will never be able to repay you for your kindness.
Grade: F or A+ (depending on your perspective and level of sobriety)
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