Mildred Pierce (HBO Series 2011)

mildred piece3 Stars

Streaming on Amazon Prime is another remake of Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce, and Evan Rachel Wood, among others.  I vaguely remember the 1945 version with Joan Crawford, but watching this version was an entirely new experience and a depressing one, to say the least.

What is it about mothers and daughters?  Just like fathers and sons, the mother and daughter dynamic can be a bitch.  Mildred Pierce is based on a novel about a woman in the depression era 1930s, whose husband has an affair. She kicks him out of the house and is left alone with two daughters to raise and no money. She’s a great cook, fantastic baker, and after taking a job as a waitress, finally opens her own restaurant and it’s a hit.

However, this story is not so much about her great chicken, waffles, and scrumptious pies, it’s about her daughter Veda.  Her daughter has a snobbish screw loose in her head and is embarrassed by her mother at every turn.  She dreams of becoming a concert pianist but doesn’t have the natural talent to succeed.  When she grows up into a young woman, she discovers she has a voice and can sing like an angel. Unfortunately, the girl is a demon, to say the least.  Veda is a spoiled, manipulative, mother-hating machine, causing destruction in her mother’s life.  Well played by Evan Rachel Wood, you’ll want to strangle her yourself by the end of the series.

Kate Winslet, of course, is great.  Does Kate ever do anything terrible? I’ve yet to see her in a role that didn’t touch my heart one way or the other.  Guy Pearce (no relation to the fictional Mildred Pierce) is her on and off lover who has an agenda of his own.  Mildred is slightly blind when it comes to being used by others, which is her flaw.  You might get a little bored with too many restaurant scenes, pie baking, piano playing, and singing.  I think they could have cut out a good hour of filler, but I’m not the director/producer.  Be prepared for a few sex scenes and naked bodies, which probably take too long as well. Mildred slaps Veda across the face and gives her a good spanking in her younger years, both of which I endured at the hand of my mother and survived.

The movie is a bummer if you’ve had a bad relationship with your mother growing up or a child that you could not control and hated. Nevertheless, it is a good story if you like the dramatic emotional type with a complex mother/daughter relationship.  Of course, Mildred isn’t so much the mommy dearest in this tale as Veda is the monster and rotten child.

In the end, Mildred can finally say, “to hell with her.”  It just takes her five episodes to get there.

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