Mommy Dead and Dearest

“Mommy Dead and Dearest” is like “Misery” meets “Capturing the Friedmans”.

A young woman (Gypsy Rose Blanchard), confined to a wheelchair, suffers from a laundry list of ailments.

Her doting mother is always by her side, a pillar of the community.

But then, a chilling phone call, a murder, and the unraveling of a disturbing web of lies and abuse.

I rank “Mommy Dead and Dearest” as #1 in my list of the best documentaries on Gypsy Rose Blanchard.

What a twisted story.

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  • My Rating: 93/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 86/100 (Users); 100/100 (Critics)

Review of “Mommy Dead and Dearest”

I settled in to watch the doc “Mommy Dead and Dearest,” expecting a twisted true crime tale.

What I got was something far more complex and disturbing.

The film opens with a chilling phone call between Gypsy Rose Blanchard and Officer Stanley Hancock of the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin.

It’s June 15, 2015, and Hancock is informing Gypsy that her mother, Dee Dee, is dead.

Gypsy’s response is oddly muted (even as Hancock presses her on whether she was involved).

This eerie exchange sets the stage for the unraveling of a disturbing story.

As details emerge, we learn that Gypsy, a young woman in her early 20s, has been living a life far from ordinary.

She’s been confined to a wheelchair for most of her life, suffering from a litany of illnesses: leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and more, all diagnosed by her mother, Dee Dee.

Her mother, Dee Dee, is her tireless caregiver, seen as a saint by those around them.

Together, they are pillars of their community, the recipients of charity, and local adoration.

But something is amiss. Dee Dee’s motherly care hides a dark reality.

Through interviews with family, friends, and medical professionals, a different picture emerges.

Dee Dee appears to be a master manipulator, involved in a deep-seated deception.

Dee Dee tells Gypsy she was paralyzed from waist down, had leukemia, was retarded, had asthma and various other conditions.

Gypsy took multiple meds and was fed through a stomach breathing tube.

Dee Dee even shaved her head because she told Gypsy she had leukemia and her hair would fall out any way.

It’s unclear if any of this was true.

But it appears likely that Dee Dee has been faking most of Gypsy’s illnesses for years.

It’s possibe suffering from Munchausen By Proxy Syndrome. That’s a mental illness and a form of child abuse where the caretaker makes up fake symptoms (or causes real symptoms) to make it look like the child is sick.

Gypsy Rose’s Best Friend

Dee Dee was so clever that she even seemed to fool Gypsy Rose’s best friend (Aleah Woodmansee). Aleah is featured prominently in the doc.

She shares how controlling Dee Dee was. Aleah feels enormous guilt — that as Gypsy Rose’s best friend, she didn’t see through Dee Dee’s secret abuse.

I’m not sure the documentary could have been made without Aleah’s best friend perspective on each of the characters in this disturbing story.

And this isn’t the first time Dee Dee engangered those around her.

We learn that Dee Dee allegedly put Round Up (weed killer) in her Stepmom’s food…her Stepmom was bedridden for 9 months.

But Gypsy’s not entirely innocent either.

Behind the scenes, she’s plotting her escape.

Meanwhile, Gypsy meets Nicholas Godejohn on a Christian dating site.

Nicholas had reportedly been arrested for fondling himself to porn at a McDonalds for 9 hours…police found a large knife with him at the arrest.

Nicholas is the man who would eventually kill Dee Dee at Gypsy’s request.

Gypsy and Nicholas exchange Facebook posts and text messages suggesting the murder plot.

We see a young woman who is more aware of her situation than she lets on, entangled in a web of deceit.

The doc doesn’t shy away from the disturbing sexual nature of their relationship

Nor the fact that Gypsy was an active participant in the murder plot..

Nicholas allegedly kills Gypsy’s mom.

Gypsy says Nicholas wanted to rape her mom too but Gypsy asks Nicholas to rape Gypsy instead.

Nicholas claims he only killed Dee Dee because Gypsy asked him to.

What makes “Mommy Dead and Dearest” compelling is the way it refuses to settle for easy answers.

Is Gypsy a victim, a survivor, or a calculating killer? The truth, the film suggests, is somewhere in between.

Gypsy’s actions, while not excusable, are understandable in the context of the psychological abuse she endured.

The film is a testament to the power of the documentary form, using interviews, home videos, and even secret recordings made by Gypsy to paint a nuanced portrait of a complex situation.

It’s a story that will leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about love, abuse, and the lengths people will go to for freedom.

In the end, Gypsy pleads guilty to second-degree murder and is sentenced to 10 years in prison, a lenient sentence that reflects the court’s understanding of the mitigating circumstances.

But it’s hard to feel a sense of justice. Gypsy’s life has been irrevocably shaped by her mother’s actions, and her future is uncertain.

“Mommy Dead and Dearest” is not an easy watch.

But it shines a light on a little-understood form of abuse, making it a crucial, albeit difficult, viewing.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly

Chief Maniac, Daily Doc