So far, I’m loving Mildred Pierce on HBO. I really need to get around to posting about some flicks where I have indeed read the book, but here I’m hanging my head in shame again.
Kate Winslet is rounding up terrific reviews for her performance as the enterprising Mildred, but I had my reservations. As an actress, Winslet is very mannered, and the dialogue, reportedly drawn greatly from the novel, must be hard to pull off. Little Veda, the supremely affected daughter character, is similarly stuffy, but she’s supposed to be awful. After Sunday’s installment, Winslet started growing on me. Maybe it took me a little while to inhabit the conventions of the era.
In a nutshell, Mildred is hard up. At the beginning, her husband has left her for another woman in Depression-era California, and Mildred must fend for herself and her two young daughters. Mildred toys with the idea of becoming a kept woman, thanks to her dishy neighbor, but chooses to overcome her pride and subjects herself to the indignity of “wearing a uniform.” Her stint as a “hash house” waitress—and the way they say “waitress,” you’d think she was professionally throwing babies under moving trains—leads to her own chicken restaurant. Along the way Mildred picks up dashing playboy Monty Barragon—Guy Pearce, doing Guy Pearce as a fabulous dashing thirties fruit baron.
So the tension mounts. Mildred vs. Veda; Mildred vs. Guy Pearce; Mildred vs. Veda and Guy Pearce—because naturally they join forces, since Veda admires his born privilege and shames her mother relentlessly for their plain ‘ol middle-class digs. As Guy Pearce’s fortune wanes, Mildred pays his bills, but though Mildred has financial leverage she lacks the je ne sais quoi handed down by Guy Pearce’s high class birthright. Money, they say, can’t buy you class. And Mildred Pierce forces us to deeply consider such a statement.
Looking forward to what’s in store. (And, boy oh boy, Evan Rachel Wood is going to be a magnificently snotty Veda.)
Editor’s Note: Henrietta Stackpole is a writer for the excellent blog I Love You Most Addently