While Showgirls & Valley of the Dolls can be said to have garnered genuine critical interest over the passage of time, Mommie Dearest stands alone in being a masterclass in not just how to destroy a career, but how to accidentally make sure no one ever takes the central claim of the story seriously ever again.
A basic summary: Joan Crawford is a legendary actress of Old Hollywood who wants it all, and has it all, except a child to love her. But adopting Christina would prove to be to their mutual regret – unable to mold her daughter into her perfect fan, she abuses her for years to come. Normally, this would be utterly tragic – indeed, the real life autobiography set the standard for Hollywood tell-alls, even with great questioning of the truth behind it all.
But the most famous flaws of the movie are what make it the infamous and widely watched camp classic it is today. Faye Dunaway takes Joan into the realm of nightmare in a way that can only be seen, not written about. While the movie is ostensibly about Christina’s suffering at Joan Crawford, the Monster, the vividly grotesque Faye Dunaway is so full of life and drive that the comparably sullen, pig-faced and brutally boring actresses that play Christina drive you to want Joan to ruin Christina’s life just to get her off the screen, whether it is through whacking her with a wire hanger or Joan drunkenly destroying Christina’s burgeoning TV career.
I could write about this movie for weeks. Go watch it.