'Mommie Dearest', directed by Frank Perry, was released in 1981 and revolves around the life of a great actress, Joan Crawford as seen through the eyes of her adopted daughter Christina. She had to bear the insuperable pressure of stardom and her mother's expectations as she went along the footsteps of her mother. The plot of the movie is based on - but deviates substantially - from Christina Crawford's best-selling memoir of the same title about her love-hate relationship with Joan Crawford, the 1930/40s movie star. It also hangs around how child abuse and alcoholism destructs childhood. It is controversial whether Christina told the complete truth in her book. An adopted daughter, Christina Crawford along with her brother finds it difficult to deal with the unruly and strange behaviour of their adopted mother and struggles to come to terms with her showbiz life. Explore the lives of these celebrities to realise the complexities, which is included in a mother-daughter relationship.
The base of the movie is when the celebrity mother, Joan Crawford tries to fill the emptiness of her life by adopting a girl child. It is this adopted daughter who pens down the agonies of the celebrity mother and how she struggles against the forces such as men, alcohol and showbiz. Personal problems and the mental pressures of showbiz life stand as a hurdle in her life that makes her mentally abusive. The story is mainly seen through the eyes of Christina and her brother Christopher, who faces the brunt and burden of life behind the closed doors.
In the film, the actress Joan Crawford is portrayed as a woman who is fanatical about hygiene and insists all those who are around her to follow her instructions on a strict basis. Desperate to adopt a baby after seven pregnancies that resulted in miscarriages, Joan is denied permission to adopt a baby through legal means. With the help of her boyfriend, Joan adopts a blue-eyed baby whom she calls Christina. Joan also adopts a baby boy named Christopher. Leading an emotionally barren life and having experienced a childhood which was devoid of love, Crawford yearns to be a loving mother. However, what we witness in the film is that she is totally unprepared for efforts and sacrifices that are typical of a true motherhood.
Even while showering Christina with luxuries and care, she imposes strict codes of discipline that makes life worse for Christina and Christopher. There is an instance in the film in which Christina is lavished with gifts at her birthday party, in front of media. Later, the actress asks her which gift she likes the best and when Christina picks up her choice, she tells the daughter that the other gifts would be donated to the charity.
The roles of the mother-daughter combination, played by Faye Dunaway and Diana Scarwid were instant hits. The harsh picture of the life of a glamour icon, the reality, the heartburns and the struggles of a mother behind the closed doors, trying to balance her profession and personal life, lends it the inevitable charm of realism. In the end, what is finally disclosed before us is the life of a woman who yearned to be a loving mother but turned out to be a bad woman. The daughter in turn, becomes the captive of her own childhood.
The crudity of the way a mom handles her adopted kid daughter, the yelling and the bashing, the maniac act put forth by a serious actress like Faye makes you shiver and remind you time and again how lucky you are to have such a wonderful mother as yours.
'Mommie Dearest' by Frank Ferry is a filmy adaptation of Christina Crawford's namesake autobiography on her relationship with her adopted mother, Joan Crawford.