Mildred Pierce (Blu-ray)
Divided into five separate episodes that all together total a running time of nearly six hours, MILDRED PIERCE takes a fascinatingly deep look at the hardships and successes of one woman’s life during the 1930’s.
Based on the novel by James M. Cain, Kate Winslet is Mildred Pierce, a recently divorced mother of two daughters living in rural Glendale, California during the depression. In order to continue to support her children, Mildred must suck up her pride and take a job as a waitress. In doing so, she gets the savvy mindset of opening her own restaurant and meets wealthy playboy Monty Beragon (Guy Pearce). Over the next decade we follow Mildred’s hardships and successes within her businesses and relationships, specifically and most importantly to Mildred, with her daughter Veda.
HBO continually puts out some of the best programming, wisely marketing themselves away from television (even though it is) and reminding everyone that they are their own brand, “It’s not TV, It’s HBO.” Directed by Todd Haynes (I’M NOT THERE, FAR FROM HEAVEN), MILDRED PIERCE takes advantage of it’s multiple episodes to establish the lead character and the world she lives in. The art direction, costuming and cinematography are portrayed gorgeously throughout California and perfectly capture the 1930 era. With that being said, unlike shows where I can’t wait to get to the next episode, I was happy to have a break with MILDRED PIERCE. It wasn’t necessarily that the storyline was slow moving, in fact a lot of events unfold throughout each episode, however sometimes those events aren’t necessarily very exciting.
All the supporting characters are wonderfully developed with superb acting to back them up from actors like Melissa Leo, James Legros, Mare Winningham and a very underrated Brian F. O’Byrne as Mildred’s ex-husband Bert Pierce. O’Bryrne brings a natural emotion and understanding to a character that continues to have subtly impactful part, both positive and negative, to the overall story.
The most important character, next to Mildred of course, is her daughter Veda. Played by Morgan Turner as a child in the first three episodes, then by Evan Rachel Wood as a young adult in the last two episodes, Veda is a girl who is obsessed with class. She thinks those who work and don’t know the finer things in life are completely beneath her. This includes anyone living in Glendale and branches out to just about everyone else as she gets older. But Veda’s hatred specifically targets her mother and that love/hate relationship between the two is what the film ultimately is about. While interesting at times, I found the child character so unlikeable, watching her becomes nearly unbearable. This might be more my taste in entertainment. Because I truly believe the situation is handled fairly well but at the same time feels a little soap opera-y
Nominated for 21 Emmy’s and winning 5, including Best Actress for Winslet who also won the Golden Globe, Satellite and Screen Actor’s Guild Award for her performance. Mildred is a powerful, complex character that is masterfully played by Kate Winslet. If this weren’t a made for a television series, hands down, Winslet would win the Oscar. Her performance is the best of the year in any medium.
Spanning over a decade, the television miniseries has many themes including divisions in different social classes, women’s strength and struggles in society and most importantly the brutally difficult relationship between a mother and a daughter. Really all three of these themes go hand in hand, affecting one another. The story of MILDRED PIERCE may not be that entertaining but it is quite detailed and methodical in presenting these topics while being backed by a beautiful picture and incredible acting.
Video: (1080p 1.78:1) The picture looks amazing, perfectly capturing the different locations in California for the time period.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Everyone is heard clearly as they are backed by an incredible score.
Audio Commentary on Part Three and Part Five with Todd Haynes (Writer/Director), Jon Raymond (Writer) and Mark Friedberg (Production Designer): A terrific commentary for Part’s Three and Five, that while isn’t necessarily the most entertaining is very informative. I think huge fans of the story and the director will appreciate their insight.
Making of Mildred Pierce (29:01): A typical look at the behind the scenes like costuming and art direction for the film. It is a pretty epic and emotional tale and this provides some interesting information like the opera singer voice for Veda is Sumi Jo and Kate Winslet explaining this was her most taxing film since TITANIC.
Inside The Episodes: A Conversation Todd Haynes Part One (4:39), Part Two (4:06), Part Three (4:57), Part Four (4:58) Part Five (4:36): An excellent piece that has the director explaining his thoughts on each episode. I highly recommend everyone who has seen the series to watch. He gives fascinating insight that helps me appreciate the film more.