Plot: What’s it about?
“No wire hangers – ever!”
Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) is an adored actress and sex symbol, but her life is not as pristine as it might seem at first glance. In front of the cameras, she is gorgeous and always with class, but in her private life, she is not so well balanced. She longs to be a mother and has adopted two young children, Christina (Mara Hobel) and Christopher (Jeremy Reinbolt). This seems like an ideal situation, but Joan is single at the time and encounters all sorts of problems at home, all while trying to juggle life as a movie star, which is hard enough by itself. And soon enough, Joan and her kids start to battle it out and it seems as if it will never end, as Joan’s temper grows shorter by the hour, or so it would seem. You would think growing up the child of a rich, famous mother would be a good thing, but as these two soon learn, things don’t always work out as expected.
This has to be one of the most ridiculous films of all time, but each time I view it, I can’t help but laugh from start to finish. Of course, this is supposed to be a true story and is based on Christina Crawford’s book on her mother Joan, but just how true it is, that’s anyone’s guess. But the movie does the book justice and adds another layer to the material, thanks to some outrageous performances, especially in terms of Faye Dunaway’s turn as Joan. Dunaway takes her character to another level and screams into the audience’s minds, in one of the most hilarious and over the top performances ever. Is this is a good movie? I don’t think so, but if you’re in the mood for an off the wall, over the top Hollywood story, then give Mommie Dearest a spin.
The main reason (and perhaps the sole reason) to watch this movie is Faye Dunaway, who is on her game as Joan Crawford, although she takes it way over the top, almost all the time. But that kind of approach works for this role and she adds a ton of humor to the flick, which has to be worth something, given the rather dark nature of the material. I think she hits her lines to perfection and while perhaps not her finest work per se, she delivers on what is needed, which counts for a lot, if you ask me. Dunaway even won the Razzie in 1982 for Worst Actress, so you know her work was memorable, to be sure.
Video: How does it look?
The last time I saw this film was when we covered it for its Standard DVD release. That’s been a while. As part of their Paramount Presents line, the film has benefitted from a new 4K remaster. And that’s good, because it needed it. The movie won’t ever look as good as some mainly due to the color palette used. It’s a bit muted. Couple that with the lack of contrast, particularly the outdoor scenes and it never really won me over with high production values. Having said that, Paramount’s new transfer does breathe new life into this film. Contrast has been improved as has detail and the grain that plagued the DVD release seems to be a thing of the past. It’s still got some faults, mind you, but this is now passable in terms of quality and certainly and improvement over what was released so many years ago.
Audio: How does it sound?
Along with the upgraded video comes a new DTS HD Master Audio mix. The musical score by Henry Mancini is lush and sounds good here however, but there is minimal surround presence in terms of sound effects, which should be no surprise. It all sounds clean and very natural however, so I see no reason to knock it, especially when compared to prior releases. No errors found with the dialogue either, this is a very crisp and much improved audio experience. Like so many other films, it serves its purpose for sure, but nothing much more.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Paramount has added a few new features in addition to some already existing ones.
- Audio Commentary – The original commentary track by director John Waters is certainly one to listen to. It’s entertaining and full of one-liners like “There’s no better movie than this to watch home alone on a Saturday afternoon…with a slight hangover.” Classic. But his comments have merit and for fans of the film and/or Waters, this is a must listen.
- Audio Commentary – New to this disc is another commentary track by American Drag Queen Hedda Lettuce. Yes, you read that correctly. Paramount actually paid someone by the name of “Hedda Lettuce” to record a commentary track for one of their films. I didn’t listen to this. I’m sure it’s wonderful. Enjoy.
- Filmmaker Focus: Biographer Justin Bozung on director Frank Perry – As is consistent with the other Paramount Presents line of Blu-ray’s, we find this new segment. Biographer Justin Bozung gives us some insight on director Frank Perry (who died in 1995) as he tells us of his life and, of course, this project.
- The Revival of Joan – Producer/Co-Writer Frank Yablans talks about his love for Crawford, his motivations to make the film and the like.
- Life with Joan – Again, Yablans talks about Dunaway and her method approach when playing Crawford while making the film. There are some nuggets of interest here, for sure.
- Joan Lives On – Interviews with some stars like John Waters, Christina Crawford as well as a Joan Crawford impersonator (among others), this feature focuses on the gay communities and their love for this film.
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
This is a cult classic if there ever was one. I haven’t seen the movie in ages and, for me, I don’t think it’s aged quite as well as I’d have thought. Faye Dunaway’s performance is over the top, then again it was supposed to be. Paramount’s done a great job updating their disc with new audio and video and the addition of some new features only sweetens the deal. Fans of the film (admit it, you’re out there) – this one’s for you.