Sidney, Sidney, Sidney…
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.
A spokesperson for the hit drama confirms that all three actors have quit the BBC1 show
Streaming on Acorn TV is a former series entitled Criminal Justice. I tuned into Season 2, which ran five consecutive nights in October of 2009. It’s a series where the audience travels through an individual’s life from the beginning of the crime to final decision of the justice system. It’s an interesting story that focuses on the victim, the individual who committed the crime, the results of that crime upon family members and acquaintances, the police investigation, the defense solicitor and barrister, and, of course, the individual on trial.
Season 2 focuses on a woman by the name of Juliet Miller (played by Maxine Peake), the wife of a successful barrister Joe Miller (played by Matthew Macfadyen). In the opening scenes Juliet is the focus as a nervous and depressed individual sitting in a car who eventually returns home to take a shower. Joe, on the other hand, has been trying to reach her by telephone multiple times but she ignores his calls.
Joe later comes home, obviously suspicious over his wife’s behavior. She is sullen, nervous, forgetful, and avoids him. After dinner with their teenage daughter in the household, everyone retires to bed. Joe wants to initiate sex but Juliet pulls away. She leaves the bed to retrieve something (which I cannot tell you since it’s a spoiler) and then stops in the kitchen. Her thoughts turn toward the knives on the kitchen counter. She chooses three, lines them up, and picks the large six-inch wide blade and carries it back to bed.
After hiding the weapon under the pillow, Joe re-initiates the sexual encounter. Their daughter hears groaning noises from their bedroom and goes to investigate. As she peeks around the corner, her father is on her mother groaning but then rolls off with a knife sticking out of his belly. Hence the crime has been committed, and the underlying causes of the tragedy take five episodes to unfold one by one until the final verdict.
It’s an interesting, albeit extremely slow unfolding story. If you like action, this is not the series for you. You witness prejudices and preconceived ideas among the police. Joe ends up in intensive care, while the investigation begins. Along comes the solicitor, with her own agenda to get her client off by immediately painting Joe as an evil abusive husband. She nurses a vindictive goal, while one police investigator wants to see justice served regardless of the circumstances since Juliet did stab him in the gut. Everyone has their opinion – everyone is emotionally affected by the case.
To discover the ins and outs of this emotional series and the outcome, you’ll have to watch it yourself. If I say anything further, I’ll be writing SPOILER all over this post. Frankly, be prepared to watch many minutes of silent brooding from the actors and painful reflection. You could probably chalk up an entire hour of merely watching the characters say nothing except crying and staring off into the distance. It will be a bore or you will be sucked into the emotional aspect of this story as the writers have obviously intended. Their goal is to drag you through the emotions of their characters.
Maxine Peake’s heart-wrenching performance deserved accolades, but you are quite torn between giving her sympathy or wishing that the United Kingdom still used hanging for punishment. It was shocking to see she did not win an award but instead, Matthew MacFadyen won supporting actor at the British Academy Television Awards 2009. His screen time is minimal, to say the least.
As far as Season 1 of Criminal Justice, I’ve yet to watch those episodes. Frankly, I need to wind down after this slow and painful journey of Juliet Miller before I take on another British crime show.