wed 11/12/2019

DVD: Mildred Pierce | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Mildred Pierce

DVD: Mildred Pierce

Fine-looking American drama that sometimes takes too long to get where it's going

Mildred snuggles up to Monty in the beautifully shot new adaptation

One of the great revelations of the decade-long HBO TV invasion is that so many of their series take everything at a truly leisurely pace. Their groundbreaking MO is not to rush, as pre-millennial TV shows usually did, but to give the plot space to breathe in a way that matches how we now watch TV - at our own pace, in our own time. In the case of Mildred Pierce, film director Todd Haynes’s beautiful-looking, Emmy-winning five-episode adaptation of the 1941 James M Cain novel, this sometimes backfires. The narrative has almost too much space to spread out, with five and a half hours viewing time rendering it not as compulsive as it could be.

Then again, this viewer is a bloke and Mildred Pierce is very much a woman’s drama, in every sense. Shorn of the camp bitchiness of the Oscar-winning Joan Crawford version, with its added biographical Mommie Dearest resonance, it’s the serious saga of one woman’s struggle with children, work, money and men in 1930s California. The action is detailed and domestic, a carefully constructed tapestry of emotions, financial imperatives and social aspirations. Kate Winslet is impeccable as the title character, her face persistently worn with worry, but human and real, sensual upon occasion. Her Mildred knows what she wants and works hard and honestly to achieve it, building her cookery and then restaurant business with determined persistence. There are men in her life but her female friends are her rocks. The males are mainly peripheral, weak or untrustworthy.

Her true Achilles' heel isn’t a man, it’s her heinous snob of a daughter, Veda, played as an adult with brittle stuck-up malevolence by Evan Rachel Wood. Veda desperately wants to leave suburbia, away from her mother’s “pie wagons and chickens and everything that smells of grease”. She thinks of herself as above a normal working life and is sure music will provide a path out, although she’s not beyond tawdry blackmail scamming where necessary. However, she can also suddenly reveal a softer contrite side - but is this merely more manipulation? Only another few hours viewing will tell.

The other striking performance is from the ever-watchable Guy Pearce as louche, Errol Flynn-ish playboy Monty Beragon. These three leads and a strong but unobtrusive supporting cast slowly cook up the surprisingly straightforward plot amidst pitch-perfect period detail. For all that, it only really became truly riveting – for this bloke, at least - towards its sizzling denouement.

Watch the trailer for Mildred Pierce

Kate Winslet is impeccable, her face persistently worn with worry, but human and real

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Comments

Kate doesn't look old enough as the mother, or the daughter doesn't look young enough to be Kate's daughter! Not convincing. ;-) What happened? Kate is a great actor here though.

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