Mommie Dearest (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes

Mommie Dearest (1981)



Critic Consensus: Director Frank Perry's campy melodrama certainly doesn't lack for conviction, and neither does Faye Dunaway's performance in the title role; unfortunately, it does lack enough narrative discipline to offer much more than guilty pleasure.

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Movie Info

When her adoptive mother Joan Crawford died in 1977, erstwhile actress/author Christina Crawford and her brother Christopher were left out of Joan Crawford's will, "for reasons which are well known to them." Industryites have suggested that it may have been this posthumous act of rejection rather than an alleged lifetime of parental abuse that inspired Christina Crawford to pen her scathing autobiography Mommie Dearest. The 1981 film version of this tome was evidently meant to be taken seriously, but the operatic direction by Frank Perry and the over-the-top portrayal of Joan Crawford by Faye Dunaway (whose makeup is remarkable) has always seemed to inspire loud laughter whenever and where-ever the film is shown. According to the film (and the book that preceded it), Joan Crawford was a licentious, child-beating behemoth, who stalked and postured through life as though it was one of her own pictures-more Strait-jacket than Mildred Pierce. This is the film with the notorious "wire coat hanger" scene, just in case you need a reminder. Surprisingly, one emerges from Mommie Dearest with more sympathy for the monstrous but intensely vulnerable Crawford than for her whining daughter (played as an adult by Diana Scarwid, and as a child by Mara Hobel). Our favorite scene: Joan Crawford dazedly replacing her ailing daughter in the cast of a daytime TV soap opera.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Frank Perry, Frank Yablans, Robert Getchell, Christina Crawford, Tracy Hotchiner
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 17, 2001
Paramount Pictures


Faye Dunaway
as Joan Crawford
Diana Scarwid
as Christina Crawford (...
Mara Hobel
as Christina Crawford (...
Steve Forrest
as Greg Savitt
Howard Da Silva
as Louis B. Mayer
Rutanya Alda
as Carol Ann
Harry Goaz
as Al Steele
Harry Goz
as Al Steele
Michael Edwards
as Ted Gelber
Jocelyn Brando
as Barbara Bennett
Priscilla Pointer
as Mrs. Chadwick
Gary Allen
as Jimmy the Photograph...
Adrian Aron
as Woman Guest
Xander Berkeley
as Christopher Crawford...
Matthew Campion
as Bruce, Actor in Soa...
Carolyn Coates
as Mother Superior
Jerry Douglas
as Interviewer
Margaret Fairchild
as Mother Superior at O...
Phillip Richard Alle...
as Pepsi Executive #1
James Kirkwood Jr.
as Master of Ceremonies
Virginia Kiser
as Beth Simpson
Peter Jason
as Pepsi Executive #4
Michael D. Gainsboro...
as Pepsi Executive #2
Matthew Faison
as Executive
Victoria James
as Photographer
S. John Launer
as Chairman of Board
Russ Marin
as Funeral Director
Nicholas Mele
as Assistant Director
Belita Moreno
as Belinda Rosenberg
Norman Palmer
as Male Guest
Dick McGarvin
as Tour Bus Driver
Jeremy Scott Reinbol...
as Christopher Crawford...
Ian Bruce
as Assistant Director
Arthur Taxier
as Decorator
Joseph Warren
as Mr. Dodd
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Mommie Dearest

Critic Reviews for Mommie Dearest

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (6)

It's rich, stimulating thought in spite of itself.

Full Review… | October 30, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Director Frank Perry, who collaborated with three others (including producer Frank Yablans) on the script, gives it all a certain crazed conviction.

Full Review… | October 30, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Dunaway does not chew scenery. Dunaway starts neatly at each corner of the set in every scene and swallows it whole, costars and all.

Full Review… | October 30, 2007
Top Critic

Really no dafter, perhaps, than some of Joanie's own Warner Bros melodramas; the trouble is, it thinks it's Art.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

I can't imagine who would want to subject themselves to this movie.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

There is nothing to string the episodes together into a coherent drama, and no insight into Miss Crawford herself.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Mommie Dearest


This film is the worst kind of exploitation flick possible, and it was taken seriously in production no less! Today billed as a camp classic, and advertised as such once it was discovered for it's ludicrous content, Mommie Dearest is synonymous with bad taste and over-acting. This goes especially for lead Faye Dunaway, who portrays screen legend Joan Crawford. Based off of Crawford's adopted daughter Christina Crawford's tell-all memoir of the same name, most of the film is comprised of scenes showing Crawford abusing her daughter physically and emotionally. The film centers on the tumultuous life of the actress, who suffered from alcoholism and may have also, had a bipolar disorder. Dunaway has complained that director Frank Perry didn't know how to rein in actor's over performing and how true that statement is. Dunaway is out of control throughout, and though many actions are cruel, villainous stages of abuse, at times you feel reviled for watching something so outrageous and unrealistic. It's certainly not laugh out loud funny, because the subject is so horrible and Dunaway does do a decent job of implying the actress' sullen manner. The movie also suffers from the fact that none of the events shown have true credibility, as friends, co-stars, and an ex-husband of the screen legend have argued against the claims of the book. The film itself is very cheap looking, sets and costumes looking second-hand, wigs and backdrops almost painted on. The performances from the children are actually laughable, and the scenes of the beatings often look like a madwoman pummeling a pillow. Bits of this are incoherent and often things aren't explained in a helpful manner, which makes it difficult to piece together the true nature of the film or its content. By the middle I and my boyfriend were betting on what atrocious act would come next. From Joan Crawford's beatings, to her impeccable housekeeping, to wielding a large axe to cut down a sapling, to yelling hoarse over wire hangers, there's just too much awkward tumult for anyone to take this seriously. Actually, one feels bad for the screen siren, her daughter, and Faye Dunaway, who went as far as putting on three hours' worth of makeup to look authentic for this film. (And does) It's just a sad waste, and a bigger waste of time.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


A narratively disjointed and episodic adaptation that is basically for those who are curious to know how was Joan Crawford's abusive relationship with her daughter, who wrote the book this film is based on. The exploitative story makes no effort in character development, but Faye Dunaway is great in a histrionic, over-the-top performance.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

A fantastic drama with great actors, and a great story, I loved it, and I highly recommend it.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

Mommie Dearest Quotes

– Submitted by russell b (47 days ago)
– Submitted by russell b (49 days ago)
– Submitted by russell b (49 days ago)
– Submitted by J * (5 months ago)

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