The beating, bleeding heart of Mommie Dearest is the complicated and abusive relationship between Joan Crawford and her daughter Christina whose autobiography the film was adapted from. Faye Dunaway and Mara Hobel have great chemistry with each other playing mother and young daughter respectively. Both were nominated for Razzie Awards with Dunaway winning Worst Actress and while I could see why Dunaway's over-the-top performance may have elicited this reaction from some, Hobel seemed to really capture well both the innocence and its loss living with such an overbearing mother.
So my picks for favorite shot gravitated to the two of them together in frame. An early contender was the shot above from the beginning of the film during Christina's lavish birthday party. It's the first time we see a non-baby Christina interacting with her mother and it's quite clearly the honeymoon period of their relationship. Matching dresses and smiles all around. The shot I picked is a quick one showing Joan's hilarious reaction to the camera man telling them that the grass stain on Christina's dress should be cleaned. It's then the first time the audience sees Joan disapproving something related to her lovely daughter.
My next favorite shot is that beautifully composed sequence of Joan walking in on Christina imitating her in front of a mirror. Joan reacts quite negatively to this and proceeds to yell at her daughter whilst dramatically cutting her hair. It's harrowing and disturbing and the pained looks on the actresses faces repeated in the three-way mirror amplify the scary moment as you can see below.
But my pick for best shot is the complete opposite of that shot. It's the night of the Academy Awards and Joan, nominated for Mildred Pierce, stays at home. When it's time for her category, she holds tightly to an equally nervous Christina. When she's declared the winner, both are sincerely elated and their ecstatic reaction is my best shot:
Perhaps the fact that it's so unrepresentative of the film and their relationship as a whole is why I picked this moment of true happiness for both as my favorite shot. Certainly, it's all downhill from this moment on with the infamous "No wire hangers" sequence to directly follow this scene and the mother-daughter relationship crumbling even more soon after that when Christina is sent away to boarding school. So yeah, I'm a sucker for the happy moments. Now, bring me the axe!