Thursday, May 25, 2017

Movie Review: Mommy Dead and Dearest

Mommy Dead and Dearest *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Erin Lee Carter.
The story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her mother Deedee is tragic no matter how you look at it. It is a story of h
orrific child abuse that lasted well into what should have been Gypsy Rose’ adulthood – and eventually will lead to murder. From this strange, sad case director Erin Lee Carter has created one of the better true crime docs in recent years – one that isn’t all doom and gloom, but may actually have some hope for the future. In a case as messed up as this, perhaps that’s the best result imaginable.
Gypsy Rose was barely 3 months old, when her mother Deedee had her hooked up to a ventilator. From there, followed more than two decades of lies, in which Gypsy had to undergo countless medical procedures, for countless ailments and illnesses that she never really had. Her father saw her sometimes – but believed his ex-wife Deedee was doing her best to care for their sick daughter. She had such an extensive medical file, and an assortment of ailments because of the treatments, that even those doctors who expected something was off, didn’t really do much to stop anything to stop it. Deedee was estranged from most of her family – who viewed her with such skepticism and disdain that when they heard what happened, they figured it was yet another scam. Because, you see, Deedee was using all of Gypsy’s illnesses to get free stuff – from charities like the Make a Wish Foundation, and other places. Deedee did everything she could to isolate Gypsy from the outside world
Sooner or later however, you cannot control your child anymore – and that happened when Gypsy started using the internet – including a Christian dating website. She connects with Nicholas Godejohn, who has his own issues (he is on the autism spectrum, and was arrested at McDonalds once for using their free wifi to watch porn for 9 hours). The two fell in love, but of course, Deedee would never have let Gypsy go anywhere. Which is why she and Nicholas plotted and carried out her murder.
This story is tragic because as you watch it, it does become clear that none of the three main people involved – Deedee, Gypsy and Nicholas – are mentally healthy. The film diagnoses Deedee with Munchausen by Proxy – a mental disorder that has her manipulating everyone around her to get Gypsy the medical care “she needs”. Suffering for years under this abuse, never knowing what was normal, and spending all of her time with a master manipulator, Gypsy is immature and naïve, but also not above manipulation herself. Nicholas Godejohn has a strange, warped view of right and wrong – and love and sex – which allows him to do what he what he does as well. There are no winners her – Deedee is dead, Gypsy and Nicholas are in jail.
This marks Erin Lee Carr’s second film, following the interesting Thought Crimes, about a New York cop, who wrote extensively online about his desire to kill, rape and eat the various women in his life – he insisted it was all fantasy, and he would never all do it. That film had a fascinating case, but I’m not sure it ever really hit its target. Mommy Dead and Dearest does that – and it’s why it’s one of the best docs of the year so far.

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