chris' female artists
minority report

mommie dearest

OK, so I missed a day. Tonight, Jillian and Doug came over and we watched The Long Goodbye ... if you want to know what I think of that, you'll have to read my dissertation. Yesterday, Robin and I watched Mommie Dearest, and that's the one I want to say a few words about.

It stinks, of course, everyone knows that. It stinks famously ... it's one of the stinkiest movies of all time. I'm not going to deny that. And Faye Dunaway doesn't just teeter on the edge of the precipice of awful acting, she leaps right over the precipice and screams all the way down to the bottom of the pit.

And yet ... Faye Dunaway is up to something in this movie, and I don't mean that the way most people do when they talk about how Mommie Dearest ruined Dunaway's career. She's given terrible campy dialogue in a terrible campy movie that when it's not being terrible and campy is being merely terrible ... what is she supposed to do? I'm reminded of the time when I got to meet and hang out for a bit with Gregory Peck for a few days some years ago. At one point, thinking of the awful Boys From Brazil, I asked Mr. Peck if he ever got into a movie, saw it was going to stink, and decided that at least he could have some fun with his role. No, he assured me, that would be unfair to the audience. His job was to do his best, no matter what the circumstances; his audience expected no less. Gregory Peck was an exceedingly charming man, and I consider myself very lucky to have met him for even those few hours. But his answer explained the problem: he was so worried about his audience that he never allowed for the possibility that in a piece of shit like The Boys From Brazil, we were all in on the joke, and so he ended up looking foolish for trying to do his best. Meanwhile, in the same film, Lawrence Olivier tarted up his role as if it was more fun than having a three-way with Vivian Leigh and Danny Kaye. The result? Olivier is the only thing worth seeing in the entire film.

Well, that's Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, although it must be noted that she doesn't seem to be having much fun. But she inhabits the role ... it's not that she gives a letter-perfect rendition of Joan Crawford, but she absolutely personifies the "Joan Crawford" that the filmmakers seem to have envisioned. When Robert De Niro absorbs a role into himself in a movie like Raging Bull, he is called a great actor. Dunaway does the same in Mommie Dearest, but since the movie is an almost complete disaster, she sees her career go into the toilet.

To put it simply: at the end of the film, when Joan Crawford is finally in her coffin, and actors all around her are emoting (badly, of course), you believe until the final moments that Crawford, or rather Dunaway, is going to climb out of that coffin and start abusing people again. And that's why I say that Dunaway is up to something in this movie.

Finally, everyone who sees Mommie Dearest loves to quote the awful dialogue, so I guess I better cast my vote here. My favorite line in the movie is "Don't fuck with me, fellas. This ain't my first time at the rodeo."