Frank Perry – Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970)


Review by Michael Costello

Frank Perry’s bleak study of the lot of a beleaguered Manhattan housewife features three excellent performances. Carrie Snodgress stars as the wife of a lawyer (Richard Benjamin) whose unbearable status-anxiety drives her into the arms of an equally neurotic emotional sadist (Frank Langella). Made during the nascent days of the women’s movement, the film is a strident and simplistic take on the woman-as-victim, yet in some scenes captures the miserable details of this woman’s life with such precision and vividness, that it still has residual power. Benjamin’s overbearing lawyer is memorable as one of the most irritating characters ever to appear onscreen, and in his insane hunger for social status, he’s something of a precursor to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Snodgress is so brilliantly effective in her Academy Award-nominated performance, that it becomes painful to watch what amounts to the torture of her passive, emotionally abused housewife. As a narcissistic womanizer with an amazingly well-modulated voice, Langella is also exceptional, and his subsequent 15 minutes as a sex symbol speaks volumes about how differently women saw themselves at the time. While the film’s failure to examine these characters in greater depth, and the director’s lack of vision ultimately leaves one unsatisfied, it remains a provocative work which undoubtedly still speaks to the plight of many women. Continue reading

Frank Perry – Mommie Dearest (1981)


Based on the book about Joan Crawford, one of the great Hollywood actresses of our time, written by her adopted daughter Christina Crawford. Joan decides to adopt children of her own to fill a void in her life. Yet, her problems with alcohol, men, and the pressures of show business get in the way of her personal life, turning her into a mentally abusive wreck seen through the eyes of Christina and her brother Christopher, who unwillingly bare the burden of life that was unseen behind the closed doors of “The Most Beautiful House in Brentwood.”

t is 1939, Joan Crawford is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But she tells boyfriend lawyer Greg Savitt that she isn’t content living in her Brentwood mansion with just her devoted secretary Carol Ann and housekeeper Helga. Greg arranges for Joan to adopt a baby girl. Joan names her Christina and promises “to give her all the things I never had.” But Joan is obsessed with perfection, and Christina finds it impossible to live up to her mother’s standards. Continue reading