Mommie Dearest: Hollywood Royalty Edition Frank Perry

Mommie Dearest: Hollywood Royalty Edition Frank Perry
These days, Oscar-winning actresses damage their careers propping up uncertain fan-boy franchises for big paycheques (Catwoman, Aeon Flux). Thirty years ago, Faye Dunaway followed her iconic performance in the film classic Network by tackling a different kind of high-wire act — playing Hollywood royalty Joan Crawford in the infamous adaptation of her adopted daughter Christina’s shocking tell-all, Mommie Dearest. In addition to being a remarkable performer, Crawford was the original diva — a neurotic control freak who browbeat her children mercilessly while manipulating them to forward her career. Dunaway, for her part apparently no stranger to diva-like antics, takes the most over-the-top aspects of Crawford’s life and turns them up to 11. Mommie Dearest contains a raft of classic camp moments involving wire hangers, rose gardens and bathroom floors; its reputation now rests entirely on the cult audience (notably amongst gay men) who revel in every Dunaway eye-roll and shrill shriek. This Hollywood Royalty edition plays both sides, trying to honour the film as a well constructed box office hit (lambasted by critics); at the same time, one featurette includes a drag Joan Crawford impersonator. The fact that John Waters provides a commentary is the flip side, embracing the film for all its ironic/iconic status. Waters doesn’t consider it camp; he’s a fan and praises Dunaway’s unusual performance choices, even as he characterises it as "the first drag queen role performed by a woman.” Crawford treated her children brutally; this film treats Crawford shockingly; the direction, script, costuming, hair and, particularly, writing and casting are pretty consistently the wrong choices; and Faye Dunaway has disowned the film and refuses to talk about it. (Even Waters hasn’t dared bring it up to her — and they’re friends!) In other words, you couldn’t find a more entertaining package. Plus: featurettes, original trailer. (Paramount)