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Reason The documentary doesn't air until a few hours after publication time; we got a screener.

HBO

Mommy Dead And Dearest Has Two Problems

One is the title, which is trashy. The other is that it's only 82 minutes, and Sarah D. Bunting could have kept watching this crazy story all day.

Notorious Case

3

Maybe in my online circle, which got obsessed with the case thanks to the excellent longform Buzzfeed piece by Michelle Dean, but I don't think it's at national-nightly-news critical mass. You should go read Dean's piece, but the short version is that Gypsy Rose Blanchard, Munchausen-by-proxied her whole life by her grifter/paper-hanger mother Dee Dee and not seeing any other way to get out of her situation, managed to scare herself up an online boyfriend who was willing to kill Dee Dee for her, which he did.

Gypsy is currently a guest of Missouri DOC, eligible for parole in 2024. The boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, goes on trial this summer.

A+ C.V.

6

Erin Lee Carr has only made one other feature-length docu, Thought Crimes, but 1) I thought quite well of it, given I didn't really care about the case prior to the film; and 2) she's still not yet 30 years old. Don't sleep on Carr's work, folks.

Have A Seat, Voice-Over

1

MDAD doesn't have a VO, but a couple of the chyrons unnecessarily italicize the proceedings.

Silent-Movie Re-enactments

0

Not applicable.

Idiots' Guide

4

Hard to say, because I do know the case, but Carr does a good job setting the stage with Gypsy and Nick's interrogations, then doubling back to the root cause of Gypsy arranging her mother's murder, the Munchausen by proxy. The syndrome itself is overexplained, in my opinion -- literally every medical drama since the late '80s has had at least one episode devoted to Munchausen or the proxy variation -- but that was probably a network note. In any case, it splits the difference well between bringing newcomers up to speed and not boring those in the know.

Keepin' You Up Nights

3

Dee Dee's dead-eyed cheery face in photos reminded me of Margo Martindale in Million Dollar Baby, a manipulative moon-faced bully in a Tweety t-shirt. I'm not excusing what Gypsy did, but I'm not sure she did have another way out, honestly.

On another note, and I don't mean to shade poor spellers or those with reading challenges, but if this is how Dee Dee, a former nurse's aide, thinks these conditions are rendered?

This is how malpractice suits are born. On another note, a local news broadcast informs us at one point that Nick had prior arrests for, among other things, looking at porn in a McDonald's and masturbating "for nine hours." H...ow does that work? Like, if he even has any epidermis left on his felonious dongle after three hours, hasn't someone called the law on him already?

Content-To-Filler Ratio

8

Nick is, according to his mother, on the spectrum, so some of the footage of his interrogation -- for instance, the bit where he relates that, after the actual killing, Gypsy wanted to "blow me a little bit," but they had to pack and clean up the crime scene -- is perhaps included for a shock value it doesn't quite earn, given Nick's apparent inability to grasp what's appropriate. In other words, maybe he is a sociopath, but it's hard to say whether that footage proves it.

Other than that, and some sliiiightly too-quaint B-roll of Louisiana, solid ratio.

Exclusive Footage/Access

9

I love that Michelle Dean is in MDAD.

And so is pretty much everyone else -- Nick and his mother only appear in interrogation footage, but Carr speaks to the prosecutor, Gypsy's defense attorney, Munchausen expert Dr. Marc Feldman, Gypsy's father and stepmother, Dee Dee's dad and stepmom (who throw suuuuuuch chilly shade on the departed), the doctor who notched the medical-notation understatement of the century with this note on Gypsy's chart,

and Gypsy herself. Gypsy is very forthcoming and seems sincere and contrite (though a number of other interviewees note that she can't not have absorbed her mother's manipulative example), and didn't seem to have a problem with Carr using embarrassing photos of the alter egos she created to go with Nick's multiple personalities.

It's...a lot.

Further Research

My esteemed colleague Stephanie Green and I could not WAIT for this to drop, and it did not disappoint. We'll see on next week's episode of The Blotter Presents what Stephanie thought; in the meantime, check out Dean's article on Buzzfeed, linked above, as it goes into more detail on certain aspects of the case (like the internet-sleuthing "community" that sprouted up like toxic mushrooms around the case and some of its tertiary figures).

Mommy Dead And Dearest premieres on HBO Monday, May 15, at 10 PM ET. For further discussion, plus a look at the Manson girls, check out Episode 009 of The Blotter Presents.

Discussion

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