Mildred Pierce is a beautiful five part mini-series based on the 1941 novel of the same name by James M. Cain. Set in Glendale, California in 1931, this story follows a woman who is struggling to balance her new life as a single mother with two children and a new career.
In Part One, we meet Mildred Pierce (Kate Winslet) and Bert Pierce (Brian F. Oâ€™Byrne), a couple in a very hostile relationship. Mildred appears to be doing most of the work and taking on most of the sacrifices. When she asks Bert for simple forms of help, it becomes too much and he bails. His affair with a woman named Maggie also might have to do with his sudden exit.
The revelation to Mildred’s two children about their deadbeat father leaving was heartbreaking. Morgan Turner who portrays young Veda Pierce is a remarkably talented actress. At just eleven years old, Turner is clearly well fit for this craft and should not be overlooked in a mini series full of award winning actors and nominees. Young Veda ends up becoming one the most of evil little girls HBO has come across and it is mainly to do with Turner’s fantastic performance.
Another significant moment in part one took place when Mildred was counting change in the market, putting back one item for a more significant item. Mildred’s frustration was subtle yet incredibly painful. But this doesn’t last for too longâ€¦ or does it? After quite a handful of unsuccessful attempts, Mildred gets a job as a waitress at a local diner with Ida Corwin (Mare Winningham) training her. Not only that, a newly single Mildred takes on a brief but very steamy relationship with friend, Wally Burgan (James LeGros). Mildred’s other friend and seemingly neighborhood gossip, Lucy Gessler (Melissa Leo) seems to be just as thrilled as Mildred. It’s fascinating, the reminder of how women were treated back in the day without a husband in their lives.
Part Two begins with a sweet visit between Bert and the kids and an even more pleasant conversation among the newly separated couple. Mildred has reached a peaceful arrangement with Bert and routine at her work, which is a job that she originally was ashamed of having. And after an argument that turns physical with young Veda, it is revealed that Mildred has hopes to open up her own fine restaurant.
But hell still lingers in her homes thanks to her nightmare of a child in young Veda. This girl does not appreciate any of what is given to her. Mind you, this is set during the Great Depression. Mildred sacrifices so much and strives after so much for her family and Veda doesn’t even see it. Mildred’s new friend at the diner, Monty Beragon (Guy Pearce) seems to be able to distract her for a short time from her family troubles. But it all comes crashing down as Ray’s (Quinn McColgan) health scare becomes all too serious. Mildred crying in Veda’s bed after her daughter’s death will leave viewers in tears.
As successful as Mildred Pierce is becoming, it is apparent that money cannot take away grief. What a painfully harsh reminder life can be. And all her life, Mildred fights for happiness. So far, it doesn’t look like she gets to hold onto it for longer than a moment. What’s been created here is not only an honest character who is seeking love, success, and happiness but a realistic look at those possibilities in such harsh times â€” socially and financially. Add the drama of an inconceivably malicious daughter, and you’ve got Mildred Pierce the mini series.
The cast and crew are sure to be recognized during the upcoming award season, especially Kate Winslet who’s performance of Mildred is just as spectacular and stunning as the cinematography. Mildred Pierce is directed by the incredibly talented Todd Haynes (I’m Not There) and adapted brilliantly by Haynes and Jon Raymond. While at times the script is slow moving, the dialogue is beautiful. And even when society handled the conflict of class much differently in the 30s than they do today, the feelings of betrayal, love, and loss are timeless and the writers displayed that wonderfully. Mildred Pierce will pierce your heart and give viewers an entirely new understanding and appreciation for strength and grace.
Watch Part 3 of Mildred Pierce on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 9:15/8:15c on HBO.