Ex, mental health, movies, psychology

Going full on Annie Wilkes…

I remember back in 1991, I was a freshman student at Longwood College (now known as Longwood University). A new movie by Stephen King had come out in late November of 1990. It was titled Misery, and it starred Kathy Bates and James Caan in the primary roles, with support from Richard Farnsworth, Lauren Bacall, and Frances Sternhagen. My good friend, Chris, who was a fellow English major and writing enthusiast, told me about the film. Chris and I both liked to write fiction, and the story was about an obsessed fan who held a novelist captive in her home, forcing him to write to her specifications. It was very compelling to us.

I’m pretty sure that we saw the movie together at some point, but I don’t remember when, or how. At one point, Chris worked at a video store in Farmville, the town where our school was. Maybe he brought the movie home one night and invited me over to watch it. Or maybe he just told me about it, and I watched it on HBO. In any case, the point is that it resonated. We used to make jokes about the movie, especially Kathy Bates’ character, frumpy Annie Wilkes, who just happened to be a very skilled nurse with a screw loose. I remember laughing about how Annie called James Caan’s character, novelist Paul Sheldon, a “dirty bird”, and referred to him as “Mister Man.” All the while, Paul tried to keep his cool and appease his captor, in the hope that on some day he might escape her clutches and reclaim his life.

He didn’t get out of the “cockadoodie” car!!!

As 18 year old writers who aspired to be “famous” someday– remember were 18 years old, and still had our whole lives ahead of usMisery was a story that pointed to the potential pitfalls of fame. In the film, novelist Paul Sheldon, who had created the Victorian romance heroine Misery Chastain, and made a huge name for himself, found himself in a real bind when he was in a serious car accident during a blizzard in rural Colorado.

At first, Annie Wilkes is Paul’s savior. She’s a highly skilled nurse, capable of saving Paul’s life and providing him comfort. But she’s also deranged and angry, and she has an unhealthy obsession with Misery, and the man who created her. The movie has some comic elements to it, and is genuinely entertaining. But, as it’s a Stephen King story, it’s also horrifying! There are parts of that movie that I can barely stand to watch, even though parts of it are almost cartoonish.

“You dirty bird… how could you?”

Well… I was reminded of Misery yesterday, as I read tweets by Ex, who is a big fan of a certain novelist. By and large, I don’t read novels myself, so I don’t know this writer’s work at all. But Bill knew who she was, and he said that when they were married, Ex was a huge fan of the writer’s. And Ex, who spends a lot of time on Twitter, tweeting celebrities with thinly veiled requests for money, had contacted this writer with a “proposition”. Someone had asked the writer if she had published a new book yet. The author wrote that she had “barely begun writing” her newest book. And Ex, in true “Annie Wilkes” style, tweeted this:

…I have a proposition… I’ll come over, you can tell me the story in true storyteller form. We will record it, digitize it, have it auto printed out and then you can have some meat on paper to play with and edit! What do you think?? I have ‘granbairns’ in Arizona to visit!

The author, to her great credit, responded very graciously. Perhaps she’s seen Misery, too. She wrote this:

A generous offer! I’m afraid I don’t write “in true storyteller fashion”, though. I don’t write with an outline, I don’t write in a straight line, and I have only the vaguest notion of things that might happen.

Again, I don’t read many novels anymore, so I haven’t read any of this person’s books. It looks like she’s very popular, though, as others were posting on the thread. She’s probably had to deal with more than one “Annie Wilkes” in her career. Before anyone comes at me, allow me to state that I wouldn’t necessarily think this about Ex if I didn’t know her, or about the things she’s done. I do think it’s an odd offer to make to an author, especially since I’m pretty certain she was being totally serious. She does have grandchildren in Arizona, too, so if the writer had taken her up on her offer, it would be an excuse for Ex to go bug former stepson and his wife.

Anyway, Ex responded with more over-the-top ego stroking and praise, which may or may not be sincere. Ex often tries to seem like a really good and interesting person, but sometimes she goes so far that she comes off as totally fake and a little screwy. She wrote, complete with emojis and Scottish flags:

Hmm…given that, I now have hope that my stories will make it to print. The method you enjoy…works! Please, just keep doing it; you create lives, no small feat! Remember me, though; it would be a delight to collaborate. I’m a Fraser du Lovat, by the way, & that’s fun!!

Lately, Ex has been claiming to be a member of a prominent Scottish clan. I have no idea if her claims are legitimate. What I do know about her is that she was adopted, and had a genuinely horrifying childhood. She’s supposedly met her birth parents, or met one of her parents, who explained that she had been the product of an extramarital affair. If that story is the truth, I don’t know how, under those circumstances, Ex would find out about her supposed ties to famous Scottish families. But hell, maybe she’s being honest. Or maybe not. Maybe telling herself she has noble family ties makes her feel better about herself. If it means she’s kinder to the people in her life, I’m all for it. My issue with her, though, is that she’s done a lot of real damage to people, to include my husband, who was her second husband. If she was just a little batty and eccentric, I could easily and happily ignore her. But I know firsthand that she can do serious harm to people when she puts her mind to it.

Well, I doubt the author she’s tweeting is in any serious danger. Ex is nutty, but she’s not THAT nutty. Or, at least I hope not. I don’t want to read a news story about an obsessed fan from New England going all “Annie Wilkes” on a novelist out west. But, at least at this point, Ex seems most likely to harm her husbands and exes, than she is other folks. This writer is someone she clearly admires, though. It’s a little creepy to see her boldly offering her “services” in this way. I hope Ex never calls that author a “dirty birdie”. Maybe that’s an occupational hazard of being a famous writer… it’s probably safest to stick to being an unpopular blogger.

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movies, reviews

Repost: A review of the 1980 movie, Resurrection…

Here’s a repost of a movie review I wrote in August 2015. It appears here as/is.

It may seem strange that I would review a 35 year old film.  I’m not even one to watch a lot of movies these days.  I decided to purchase a copy of Resurrection, a film made in 1980 starring Ellen Burstyn, Richard Farnsworth, and Sam Shepard, because I’ve had the soundtrack stuck in my head for what seems like ages.  I used to watch Resurrection when HBO ran it all the time.  Since I was a kid back then, I didn’t get all the nuances of the film as I did yesterday, when I watched it for the first time in probably 30 years.

Someone has helpfully posted the whole movie on YouTube.

Ellen Burstyn plays Edna Mae Macauley, a woman who had just bought her husband a new car.  The two got in the car and went for a joyride along the Pacific coast, when a boy suddenly skateboarded in front of the car.  Edna Mae’s husband swerved to avoid hitting the kid and they went over a cliff.  Somehow, Edna Mae survived, despite the fact that neither of them wore seatbelts.  Her husband died.  I feel I should mention that there’s a pretty cheesy special effect when the car crashes.  The screen goes black and we see shattering glass.  It’s obviously very fabricated and fake, but gets the point across.

Edna Mae has a near death experience, where she sees friends and family who have passed on.  Just as she’s getting comfortable going into the light, she gets sucked back to Earth.

Edna Mae wakes up in a hospital room.  She is badly injured and winds up in a wheelchair.  She moves back to her rural hometown in Kansas (actually Texas, which is where much of this movie was filmed).  Her family takes care of her, though they are a bit reserved and God fearing.  This is a stark contrast to Edna Mae’s warm, free spirited visage. 

One day at a family picnic, one of the kids gets a bloody nose.  Edna Mae takes the child in her arms and calms her down.  The nosebleed miraculously stops.  This is the first sign that Edna Mae now has healing powers.  Eventually, she even heals herself and then starts to heal others.  She has about a 70 percent success rate.  Scientists want to study her.

She meets a man, the son of a Bible thumping zealot.  They start a relationship, but he’s uncomfortable with her “powers”.  Much of the movie is about their relationship, as well as the rocky one Edna Mae has with her father, who thinks of her as a whore.  By the end of the film, we find out why he feels the way he does. 

I think Resurrection is a really good movie and the ending is powerful.  I’m surprised it took so long to become available on DVD, since it’s well-acted by people who have actual talent.  Yes, if you buy this on DVD, you will get a published on demand copy, which carries some risks.  I was pretty happy with the quality of the DVD I got. 

I love watching films from the early 80s because they remind me of a time when life was simpler and we didn’t have so many stupid rules… and people weren’t always butting into other people’s business.  Or, if they were, the whole world didn’t know about it.  Besides that, I just think Resurrection is a gem of a film.  And, while I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the concept of God or an afterlife, I do find the story kind of comforting.

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celebrities, LDS, movies, reviews

Repost: Just watched I Am Elizabeth Smart… 

I wrote this post for the original Overeducated Housewife blog in November 2017. I am reposting it as/is, so pretend it’s five years ago.

We got snow this morning and it’s been flurrying all day, so we decided to stay in and watch TV.  I recently read Elizabeth Smart’s comments about the Lifetime movie that was made about her experiences in captivity after she was kidnapped from her bed on June 5, 2002.  I still remember Bill telling me about the kidnapping.  We were engaged at the time, living in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  His daughters are a few years younger than Smart and Mormon.  They were in Arizona.  I remember Bill was concerned.

Well, we all know what happened to Elizabeth.  She was eventually found and reunited with her family.  She went to college, went on a mission, and got married to a returned missionary from Scotland.  They have two beautiful children and Elizabeth’s work is about helping victims.  While I would never wish what happened to her on anyone, I think it’s laudable that she’s been able to turn her ordeal into something good.

Trailer for I Am Elizabeth Smart.

As for the movie… I have to admit, it made me a bit emotional.  I read Elizabeth’s book a few years ago, so I knew she was raped repeatedly, starved, forced to eat garbage and drink alcohol, and kept shackled to a tree out in the wilderness.  The movie featured Smart narrating while an actress portrayed her. 

I saw the first TV movie about Smart’s case; it aired in 2003, just nine months after she was rescued.  I remember it was on TV the same night a movie about Jessica Lynch aired.  I was interested in both movies, so I flipped back and forth.  The first Smart movie was more from her parents’ perspective; it was based on the book Bringing Elizabeth Home

In I Am Elizabeth Smart, there seemed to be much less emphasis on Smart’s family and the LDS church.  In fact, I noticed when the actors portraying Barzee, Mitchell, and Smart didn’t even pray the way Mormons do, with their arms crossed.  The church wasn’t even really mentioned, which is kind of a pity, since I think Mormon teachings are, in part, to blame for Smart’s trauma.  The film is instead kept sort of blandly religious.  Smart speaks of her faith in God and in how she saw God in everyday miracles, like when it would rain.  Smart explains that she was always thirsty, because they never had enough water.  It was very hard to get water.  When they did get it, Mitchell would make her work for it.  Basically, that meant submitting to his repeated sexual assaults. 

Smart says in the film that when Mitchell raped her, she felt shattered into a million pieces.  In speeches she’s given, she’s mentioned that she learned object lessons in the church about the importance of being “pure”.  She learned that having sex before marriage made her akin to a chewed up piece of gum, worthy of being thrown away.  Although she did mention feeling “shattered” in the film, she did not provide the context that made rape even more horrific for her.

The actors in the film were very good, although the part of the movie that I found most compelling was when Elizabeth spoke.  It seemed almost like she wanted to set things straight with the public.  She addressed the many cynical comments she must have read or heard from people over the years, including the claim that she had Stockholm Syndrome.  Toward the end of the film, she has a glint in her eye and a victorious edge to her voice when she tells viewers that Mitchell had raped her for the last time.  I also noticed that Elizabeth looked really pretty.  I have seen her wear very heavy makeup, but whomever did her makeup for the film did a really good job.  She looked natural and beautiful, not garish.

By the time the movie ended, I was feeling pretty verklempt.  She was so incredibly lucky to survive and not endure years with those people.  And, honest to God, while I’m not generally someone who enjoys violence, I do hope Mitchell gets the shit beaten out of him regularly for what he did to Elizabeth… and frankly, Wanda Barzee, who is also horrible, but was his victim for over fifteen years.

I think I Am Elizabeth Smart is pretty decent, especially for a Lifetime film.  It is ultimately a triumphant film.  I’m not sorry I watched it.  I’m sure they deliberately downplayed Smart’s LDS beliefs for many reasons.  Maybe it was to make it appeal to a larger audience or give more time to the story of Smart’s captivity.  But personally, I think the church helped traumatize Smart when it taught her that sex outside of marriage makes someone worthless.  As horrifying as rape is, it’s got to be much worse when the cornerstone of one’s spiritual beliefs teaches that a woman who has sex before marriage is akin to a licked cupcake or chewed up piece of gum. 

Looks like the “Licked Cupcake” is about to become theater.
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movies, TV, videos

Repost: Desperate Lives– a delightfully campy anti-drug flick starring Helen Hunt…

I am reposting this old Epinions review, written June 26, 2012, because I mentioned Diana Scarwid today and she was in this movie about drugs in the 80s. I did recently write about Desperate Lives, but that post didn’t include my review… and I worked so hard on that review! So here it is– as/is– for the interested. I had some fun with this writeup, didn’t I?

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, which means that my childhood was inundated with anti-drug propaganda.  One of the most memorable made for television films from my youth is 1982’s Desperate Lives, starring Doug McKeon, Diana Scarwid, Diane Ladd, and a very young Helen Hunt.  This film has some unintentionally hilarious moments in it, which is why I would ever think of it 30 years later.  Though it has been available on VHS in the past, it eventually went out of print.  I see it’s now being offered for $9.99 on Amazon.com, or you might be able to see it for free on YouTube, which is what I opted to do.  Or, you can just read this review, which will be very snarky and includes all of the major details of the plot.

The plot

Guidance counselor Eileen Phillips (Diana Scarwid) is new blood at a high school where the kids are all stoned.  She wants to do something about all the blatant drug abuse, but the teachers and administrators don’t care.  Can a couple of special students help Eileen convince the kids to stop doing drugs?

A blow by blow… (cuz are you really going to watch this?)

*Spoilers– skip this section if you don’t want them.* Diana Scarwid, who famously played the adult version of Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest, plays Eileen Phillips, a young guidance counselor.  Just eight years out of high school herself, Eileen Phillips has an annoying, odd, southern accent that sounds like it inspired Eric Cartman fifteen years later.  On her first day on the job, Eileen runs into Scott Cameron (Doug McKeon) in the parking lot.  Scott appears disoriented because he and his sister, Sandy (Helen Hunt), have just taken a ride in a van where other young folks are doing drugs.  Scott apparently has a bit of a contact high.

Eileen immediately takes a shine to 15 year old Scott and asks another guidance counselor if she can trade one of her students for Scott.  Later, we see Scott in Eileen’s office and she tries to talk to him about his future.  But he’s coming down from his high and is angry and irritable.   They have a bonding moment when Eileen implores her new young charge to trust her.

At a pep rally, Eileen is enjoying the band and the cheerleaders until she looks around and spots some unruly boys up in the bleachers shoving stuff up their noses and smoking pot.  The football coach stirs up cheer by telling students they “have to get high”.  As everyone roars approval, he quips “That’s not what I mean…”

Eileen corners the principal, Dr. Jarvis (William Windom), and immediately takes him to task for all the druggies in his school.  Having only been on the job two weeks, Eileen sure doesn’t mind upsetting the apple cart.  Dr. Jarvis doesn’t seem to care.  He continues greeting students as Eileen tries to talk to him about trying to stop all the drug use.  The good principal just can’t be bothered.  Later, we discover that Dr. Jarvis will soon be retiring, which explains his apathy.  He warns Eileen not to rock the boat too much.

Eileen is in the pool with the students when she spots one of them floating.  She shouts for someone to call the paramedics because the young lass isn’t breathing.  Miraculously, after a few seconds of CPR, the young girl starts breathing again.  When Eileen asks what happened, the only response she gets from the other kids is that the girl is just a “dumb doper”. 

The music turns sad and ominous as we end up at Scott and Sandy’s house, where their mom, Carol (Diane Ladd), is setting up for dinner.  Scott starts complaining to his mother, who tells him he hangs out with “a bad class of people”.  Scott gets p!ssed and storms out of the house as Carol calls to him to come back.  But Sandy tells her to let Scott go out and blow off some steam… or maybe just to score some blow.  Later, when Sandy tries to talk to Scott, he calls her a b!tch and accuses her of being a doper, too.  But Sandy says she only “experiments”; she’s not a drug fiend.

The familiar strains of an 80s era arcade play and I hear the sounds of Donkey Kong.  Scott’s there to pick up a stash from his dealer, Ken (Sam Bottoms).  Ken apparently sees himself in Scott and recruits him to help him sell drugs.  He shows Scott his car and apartment, offers Scott a beer, and tells him to open a briefcase he got handmade in Italy, which Scott pronounces as “gnarly”.  The dealer doesn’t drink or drug, but he likes his money.  He sees the same qualities in Scott as he introduces him to a lucrative life in designer Jordache jeans!   

There’s more ominous music as the scene shifts.  Poor Carol is in bed with her husband, John (Tom Atkins), lamenting about how crappy Scott is.  The parents are losing control of their kids and hating it.  Dad can’t reach Scott, but he can keep a 16 hour a day job at the post office so he can pay the bills.

Scott is soon approached by a pretty 15 year old girl named Susan (Tricia Cast) who’s heard he sells drugs.  He doesn’t want to sell her any drugs, but she tells him “everybody else is doing it”.  Ahh… famous last words.

Eileen busts a group of b!tchy teen girls in the girl’s bathroom, who are sitting in there getting high.  They tell her the same thing… that everybody does it.  But Eileen isn’t having it.  Her voice is low with disapproval as she reminds the teens that she’s been around and knows what’s going on. 

Next, we see Sandy in the chemistry lab with her boyfriend, Steve (Grant Cramer) a cutie pie football player.  He’s got some PCP and wants to celebrate their six week anniversary.  Sandy tries to resist, but Steve lays on the peer pressure.  She snorts; he kisses her.  Then we flip back to Scott as he asks out Susan, the cute girl who wanted to buy drugs from him. 

Suddenly, we hear ungodly screams and shattering glass as we see Sandy jump out a second story window!  Under the influence of that PCP, Sandy has landed on the ground, screaming and writhing, miraculously with no apparent broken bones, cuts, or even bruises.  Scott wrestles Sandy to the ground and she goes limp as she passes out.  When a student says that only the crazies act like this, Eileen screams that she’s glad everyone’s so sane.  Yes, this is one of the unintentionally hilarious parts of this film.

Eileen Phillips is now lamenting that the problem is overwhelming.  Her boyfriend, Stan (Art Hindle), is annoyed because Eileen is too much into her job.  He’s especially irritated when Eileen asks Stan if he minds if Scott joins them on their bike date that weekend.  Eileen wants to show Scott a “new way to get high”.  And Stan reluctantly agrees to being cock-blocked by a drug addicted adolescent.

Eileen takes Scott fishing and finds out that Scott has a sense of humor.  Then they’re with Stan as appropriately cheesy 80s music plays while they ride their bikes without helmets and take crazy risks doing stunts.  They have a good day, but Scott still has a dark side. 

In the very next scene, he’s snorting a couple of lines of cocaine just as he’s about to practice swimming.  He does a lap, then his cute little girlfriend, Susan shows up.  They talk about drugs and Scott is annoyed that she’s on something.  It seems the young lady has a complex about being like “Little Bo Peep” and thinks drugs will help her grow up.   

Next Ken, the nasty drug dealer, is shown roughing up Julie (Michele Greene) one of his female teenaged clients, who begs him to supply her with something.  But he heartlessly shoves her aside, refusing to hook her up.  Then, just as Ken is about to leave, Scott shows up and confronts the drug dealer, telling him to stay away from his girlfriend.  I’m wondering if Scott is just hoping there will be more for him.     

Eileen Phillips, still taking her job very seriously, tracks down the drug dealer and confronts him.  I can’t help but think Eileen is a dummy, messing with a drug dealer without any backup.  These were the days before cell phones after all.  But the dealer is surprisingly mellow… until the two of them find Julie, the shrieking young girl the dealer had kicked out, dead on the floor of his apartment.  She has committed suicide.

At swim practice, Eileen pulls Scott aside and reads him the riot act.  They have an argument as Eileen tells Scott that he’s a doper.  Scott finally breaks down and tells her he has to do something to get away from “all the crap”.  And Eileen, in all her wisdom, tells Scott to try a movie or a book.  Somehow, I can’t imagine that advice is going to go very far with the average drug addict.

Then at a faculty meeting, Eileen delivers a sermon about all the druggie kids at the school, and poor dead Julie is a good way to raise the issue with the kids.  Here, we see Dr. Joyce Brothers in a cameo, playing Mrs. Watson, a woman who couldn’t care less about the drug problems and wants to discuss band uniforms.

Over Thanksgiving dinner, Scott’s family is trying to engage him.  But he passes out, his face landing in his plate full of turkey and mashed potatoes.  Then as Eileen and Stan have a picnic, they argue because Eileen is too hung up on the druggie teens and doesn’t care enough about their relationship. 

Sandy, now sporting black eyes and casts on her arm and leg, takes Scott out for a walk.  He tells her he’s taken Quaaludes and that’s why he passed out over dinner.  Sandy tries to talk Scott out of using drugs, but Scott takes off on his skateboard, leaving poor gimpy Sandy standing there.

As Scott is angrily skateboarding down the street, the music turns hopeful.  Susan pulls up in her car.  She’s fifteen, so she’s clearly driving illegally.  The window rolls down and Scott calls her “Sandy” instead of Susan.  Oops!  She invites him to get in the car with her.  They decide to go up to the mountains.  While they drive, Susan tells Scott to open the glove compartment, where she’s stashed some primo angel dust.  Susan reassures Scott that this angel dust is “clean” and they can enjoy it without worrying about freaking out like Sandy did.  The two have an annoying conversation, peppered with some very contrived sounding teen lingo.  They light up while Susan is driving and the two of them are completely out of it as the road grows curvier.  Finally, Susan is stoned out of her mind and still driving… neither is wearing a seatbelt, mind you, as Susan’s car goes through the guard rail and down an embankment.  Another unintentionally hilarious moment happens as we see a very cheesy special effect.  The windshield cracks, but it looks like it was done in cartoon rather than for real!

Eileen comes to the hospital.  Thunder rolls and it’s pouring outside.  Eileen introduces herself to Scott’s parents, who have gathered around their son’s hospital bed.  We see Scott looking out of it, his hands restrained in leather straps.  Scott has a nasty concussion and doesn’t even ask about Susan, his darling girlfriend who has perished in the crash. 

It’s Christmas time, two weeks after his Thanksgiving accident.  Scott still doesn’t know what’s happened.  Eileen visits him at his home.  Scott asks what happened.  Eileen tries to change the subject, but he presses her for details.  Eileen tells Scott that “God has a way of blocking painful memories from our minds so that we don’t replay them over and over again…”  Not sure God has a lot to do with it, but it sounds good.  Eileen talks to Scott’s mom and I have to say, Diane Ladd does a good job playing the anguished mom, wondering how she ended up with two druggie kids.  Later that night, Scott wakes up screaming like a banshee as he realizes his cute girlfriend, Susan, is dead.  He’s hysterical as he throws a chair through the window.  Is it the drugs or grief?  The paramedics come to take Scott away, presumably for a shot of Thorazine.

Eileen reflects on what’s happened to her favorite student.  She has finally had enough.  During a Christmas assembly, Eileen goes through a bunch of lockers and collects a bunch of drug stashes.  She puts it all on a cart and pushes the cart into the gynmasium, where she proceeds to burn the drugs in front of everyone.  I can’t help but wonder how the burning drugs don’t make everyone high,  but I guess the writers were going for a dramatic effect.  On another note, the fact that there’s a Christmas assembly and the choir is singing a religious song really shows how dated this film is.  In any case, after Eileen collects all the drugs, I’m left thinking this was one stoned school! 

Eileen delivers another unintentially hilarious speech in front of the student body as she lists all of the students who have been maimed or killed thanks to drugs.  She’s presumably sober when she does this.  Just say no, kids!  And shockingly, Eileen’s speech seems to get through to everybody!  One by one, the students come up to the burning cart with drugs on it and drops more into the flames, apparently just because of Eileen Phillips’ speech.  A round of applause erupts as the kids decide to go straight.  I wonder if they’ll still be straight tomorrow or the next day, but the ending does at least allow this film to end on a triumphant note.

My thoughts

Desperate Lives was obviously meant to be a very serious film.  I know it was shown at schools in the 1980s as a way to dissuade students from taking illegal drugs.  But I have to say, Diana Scarwid’s performance is pretty trippy.  I was impressed by some of the other actors, namely Doug McKeon and Helen Hunt, who are clearly much too talented for this tripe. 

I don’t think this film is particularly effective, despite its strong anti-drug propaganda bent.  The dramatic moments go way too far, which makes this movie too over the top to be taken seriously.  Yes, it’s true that some people ruin their lives over drugs.  But Desperate Lives only shows the most drastic and dramatic pitfalls to drug abuse peppered with the Valley Girl speak that was so popular in the early 1980s.  From the moment we see Helen Hunt jumping out of a window, screaming her head off, it’s very clear some of these scenes are intended to shock and scare straight.  And what they ultimately end up doing is making viewers laugh.  Or at least they make ME laugh.  At least we’re spared seeing these kids in rehab.

Overall   

This is your typical 80s era movie of the week.  I watch this and wonder if people were really that simple in the 80s.  I can’t imagine today’s teens taking this movie seriously at all.  If you watch it, you will probably laugh.  I certainly wouldn’t spend money on this film, but it’s fun for a laugh on YouTube.

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movies, narcissists, reviews

Repost: My review of Mommie Dearest, the film… 

I wrote this review for Epinions in October 2007.  We were living in Germany the first time and I needed stuff to do.  So I watched Mommie Dearest and reviewed it.  Here it is reposted for your perusal, because I mentioned it in today’s fresh content. I have not edited this review from its original incarnation.

I wonder how many kids dream about growing up the child of a movie star. On the surface, it seems like it would be such a sweet life of untold indulgences. After all, movie stars don’t have problems. They all live in mansions and never have to think about money or consequences for their actions. They’re surrounded by people who come at their beck and call. Surely it must be the same for their children, right? Of course not. As CNN shows us with its daily reports on Britney Spears’ legal troubles, stars have their problems, too. And their children often have to deal with the aftermath.

Christina Crawford is the late Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter. In 1978, she published a tell-all book about her experiences having Joan Crawford as a mother. The 1981 film Mommie Dearest, based on Christina Crawford’s book of the same name, is the dramatized story of what Christina endured growing up in Hollywood’s glare. Mommie Dearest, the book, made quite a controversial splash back when it was first published. Three years later, the film version, starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, made a very different kind of splash. Even though a lot of critics panned Mommie Dearest, it still gets regular airplay today. Certain audiences, most notably homosexuals and transvestites, love this film and have made it a cult classic.

I have seen Mommie Dearest dozens of times, first on HBO, then on regular cable, and finally on my own DVD. I recently purchased the Hollywood Royalty Edition of the Mommie Dearest DVD. At $9.95, it was a steal and a great way to kill time until my husband and I can move out of our German hotel room and into our new home. I watched Mommie Dearest again last night. Every time I see it, I notice something new.

Thanks to Crawford’s book and Dunaway’s over the top portrayal of Joan Crawford in the movie, Joan Crawford has become sort of a poster child of child abusers. Indeed, there are several infamous scenes in this movie that can be, depending on how the viewer takes it, either very disturbing or hilarious. Take, for instance, the “wire hangers” scene, the scene for which Mommie Dearest is perhaps best known. Dunaway, as Crawford, comes into young Christina’s room to say goodnight to her sleeping daughter and make sure that everything is in its place. Wearing cold cream and a headband, Joan goes into Christina’s closet and starts thumbing through her clothes, all neatly hung on satin hangers. Suddenly, the movie star comes across a dress on a wire hanger. Enraged, she snatches the frilly creation off the rack and cradles it in her arms. Then, at the top of her lungs, she screams “NO WIRE HANGERS, EVER!”

Sure, lots of people make fun of that scene. Dunaway’s cold cream mask and wild hair make her look like an outraged modern day Michael Jackson. She tears all of the clothes off the rack, dumps them in a pile, and forces Christina out of bed. Then, completely out of control, she starts beating the crying child with the wire hanger. The scene is totally over the top and yet it always sends a chill down my spine. When I look in Dunaway’s heavily made up eyes, I see fury that makes me believe that she’s an angry, abusive mother and Mara Hobel, very impressively playing the young version of Christina Crawford, is her terrified little girl.

Diana Scarwid, who plays the teenaged and adult Christina, is also very compelling in her role. Somehow, she’s able to convincingly demonstrate the paradox that affects children of abusive parents. She hates her mother, yet she also loves her. As she grows up and her mother inevitably starts to lose power over her, viewers still see that love/hate struggle. She knows her mother is crazy, yet she can’t bear to lose her. She faithfully puts up with her mother’s insanity, seemingly unable to cut the ties. Then, when Joan Crawford dies and the will is read, Christina and her brother, Christopher, learn that she didn’t leave them a cent “for reasons well known to them.”

Mommie Dearest was produced by Frank Yablans and directed by Frank Perry. Yablans also wrote the screenplay. According to the special features that are included with the Hollywood Royalty version of Mommie Dearest, Yablans originally meant for Anne Bancroft to play Joan Crawford. But Bancroft’s Joan Crawford didn’t seem to be working. Faye Dunaway wanted the part and when she was made up, looked just like the star. I wasn’t around when Joan Crawford was a big star, but I have seen pictures of her. Dunaway is a dead ringer. Moreover, the makeup and costumes in this movie are fantastic. The sets are also incredibly authentic. Whenever I watch this movie, I often forget that it was made in 1981. It really does evoke the glamour and style of the 1940s. It’s not until the very end of the movie that I remember that the film adaptation of Mommie Dearest was made less than thirty years ago.

Despite the fact that I love this movie for its sheer camp factor, there are a few things about it that I don’t like. First of all, the movie isn’t entirely true to the book. Of course, Mommie Dearest is a dramatization based on a book, but it leads viewers to believe that Joan Crawford only had two children when, in fact, she had four. Her adopted daughters Cathy and Cindy wanted nothing to do with the film, so they aren’t mentioned at all. Also, Dunaway’s performance is often really outrageous, so much so that it draws attention away from the very serious topic of child abuse and almost turns it into a joke. Is it funny to see Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford so outraged by being called “box office poison” that she feverishly destroys a rose garden with a pair of hedge clippers? Sure. But imagine being a child in real life watching something like that. Dunaway’s performance is so crazed that a lot of audiences react with laughter instead of shock.

Ditto the scene in which Dunaway, as Joan Crawford, brings Christina (played by Scarwid) home from her boarding school in a snit because Christina got caught kissing a boy. When Christina openly defies her mother, declaring that she’s not one of her fans, Dunaway, as Crawford, tackles the girl, grabbing her around the neck and choking her. It’s a grotesque, disturbing scene that, again, is so over the top that people make fun of it. It turns what should be a tragic scene into something that’s funny. While I agree with comedian George Carlin’s assertion that a person can make a joke out of anything, somehow it seems wrong to do it with child abuse.

The Hollywood Royalty version of Mommie Dearest consists of the movie, which is rated PG and runs for 128 minutes, commentary by campy filmmaker John Waters, three features that explain how the movie was made and include interviews with the movie’s makers and actors, a photo gallery, and the original theatrical trailer. Although I saw this movie many times when I was a child, if I were a parent, I would probably think twice about letting a young child see it. Although I counted only two swear words (including one use of the f word), there are several violent scenes that involve children that might be frightening for them.

Loved or hated, Mommie Dearest is rarely ignored or forgotten. I’m proud to have it as part of my personal movie collection. And, after watching this, I can’t help but remember that movie stars and their children have problems too.

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