Mildred Pierce (2011)

Todd Haynes’ (Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine, Safe, and Poison) 5-part HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce is based on the 1941 novel by James M. Cain and the 1947 film starring Joan Crawford. Often when a novel gets adapted into a film, substance is lost. It’s difficult to squeeze a 300-page novel into 90 minutes of screen time. So a 5-hour mini series gets to do justice to the original work. On the flip side, it’s difficult to remake a classic film, especially one starring Joan Crawford and directed by Michael Curtiz (White Christmas). Mildred Pierce succeeds beautifully in the story’s pacing. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll have to spend the first hour or so trying to slow down. There’s a lot of time to fill and the story proceeds slower as a result. This is a good thing. We get to really experience character development and by the last two episodes feel we really know the cast of characters. Kate Winslet loses herself in the title role. You are able to forget about the actress and really focus on the character of Mildred. She is perfectly cast. Guy Pearce plays Monty the third man in Mildred’s life and perhaps the most destructive, although it may be a tie between Monty and Wally played eerily well by James LeGros (Ally McBeal).  Did LeGros gain that weight for the role or has he chunked out over the past 10 years? Either way he did an outstanding job as Mildred’s sleazy lawyer and part-time lover. Brían F. O’Byrne, Melissa Leo, and Mare Winningham add great depth to the series in critical supporting roles. O’Byrne plays Mildred’s first husband, Leo is outstanding as Mildred’s best friend and Winningham adds a bit of levity as Mildred’s bossy co-worker who eventually works her way deep into Mildred’s professional life. Evan Rachel Wood shines playing Mildred’s daughter Veda as a young adult during the final two episodes. What starts out as a relatively quiet story of a woman during the Depression who figures out how to take care of herself and her two young children after her husband leaves her turns into high melodrama by series end. Too high for my taste particularly in the final episode which is why I’m giving this a 3.5 out of 5. I love Todd Haynes and have been looking forward to this since I heard about it in production. I loved it. It just wasn’t perfect. If you’re a fan of period drama, melodrama or a fan of any of the actors mentioned (particularly Winslet and Leo), this is still a must-see. For me, watching it once is probably enough.

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One Response to “Mildred Pierce (2011)”

  1. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    [” What starts out as a relatively quiet story of a woman during the Depression who figures out how to take care of herself and her two young children after her husband leaves her turns into high melodrama by series end.”]

    The problem is that too many people make the assumption that “MILDRED PIERCE” is supposed to be about a woman who succeeds in a man’s world. It’s a lot more than that – even from the beginning.

    Like

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