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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Surviving an abusive childhood.
Positive Role Models
Crawford is abusive, self-absorbed, and erratic, drinking, slapping her children, screaming obscenities at them, choking a daughter at one point, and generally punishing them beyond what the transgression calls for, but she insists the children be well-mannered, well-educated, driven, philanthropic, and grateful, giving away toys to less fortunate children each Christmas. Christina and brother Christopher endure the abuse to become responsible adults. Housekeepers, teachers, and some of Crawford's boyfriends are a stable presence in the children's lives.
Violence & Scariness
Slapping children; spanking; yelling; mother locks daughter in changing room, insists she eat unrefrigerated leftovers from previous night's unfinished dinner, cuts daughter's hair roughly, hits daughter with bottle of cleaner, violently cuts rose bushes.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man and woman enter a shower together naked (woman's shoulders up; man's waist up); a woman references seven previous miscarriages.
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"F--k," "goddamn," "hell," "bitch," "s--tty," "for Christ's sake"; harsh tones and verbal abuse such as "quitter."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Casual smoking and drinking throughout; references to alcoholism; daughter finds mother passed out, ostensibly drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mommie Dearest is a cult-classic adaptation of actress Joan Crawford's daughter's tell-all, published in 1978, exposing her mother as a self-absorbed narcissist, alcoholic, and abusive, cruel parent. It features casual smoking and drinking, excessive strictness and verbal abuse, slapping, screaming fights, obscenities, and a famous scene involving spectacular rage over the use of wire hangers. There is casual profanity ("bitch," "s--t") and one brief use of "f--k." Though it's a disturbing portrait of a Hollywood star's sad life behind the scenes and the abuse suffered by her children, who claim they were adopted as a publicity stunt, the dramatic production and over-the-top performances have earned the film a spot for its campy brilliance. Best for teens who can understand the pathos here as well as the impressionistic world of memoirs-turned-film and Lifetime-style production. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This quirky classic may not be good in the traditional way we value films, but it's a unique study in memoirs-turned-biopics. It was widely hated upon release in 1981 for its embarrassing tawdriness and reckless interpretation of the book on which it was allegedly based, but it has since come to represent high camp that may or may not reveal much about the real Crawford but still tells us something useful about Hollywood's treatment of its biggest stars and the realities of life as the children of famous actors -- at least through the lens of a director bringing a memoir to life.
The performances have been called near kabuki for good reason -- everything is overacted, overly felt, and so played to the hilt that this version of what would otherwise be truly sad abuse instead often reads as comical. Great for discussions about our depictions of the Hollywood machine, the unreliable narrator, and the benefits (if any) of the tell-all.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.