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.

Sense & Sensibility (Movie 1995) vs. Sense & Sensibility (TV BBC Mini-Series 2008)

senseOnce again, I’m back comparing two classics.  Who doesn’t love Jane Austen?  Well, maybe some biker on a Harley, wearing lots of leather and a skull helmet. Nevertheless, for the ladies of the world who revere her timeless stories, this is one of my favorites.

Like many other Austen tales, there are multiple versions of this first published work of Jane’s in 1811.  There was a 1971 TV serial, 1981 TV serial, 1995 film  and the most recent 2008 mini-series.  Do I have a favorite?  The 2008 version is the one that floats my remote, but the 1995 movie version is close behind.

The 1995 version had been my favorite, of course, until the 2008 mini-series came along, consisting of three episodes and 174 minutes.  Sense & Sensibility is one of my best-loved Austen tales. The 1995 version is the star-studded, well-known cast of Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Greg Wise (married to Emma Thompson in real life, by the way), Hugh Grant, and the infamous Alan Rickman.  Each of these talented actors make up cast who tells this fascinating tale of the Dashwood sisters.

The 2008 TV mini-series is much longer, of course, with a casting of new faces, at least for me, in most of the characters.  I had never seen Hattie Morahan (Elinor) or Charity Wakefield (Marianne) before this series aired.  Frankly, I loved them and found them both endearing in this version.  Kate Winslet, although, probably outshines as Marianne between the two. She is such a spirited actress. “Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn – to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise.”

Then we have the men who love these woman. Hugh Grant and a young Greg Wise in the movie version make good choices. In the 2008 version, we have blue-eyed Dan Stevens (the Downton Abbey heart throb) as Edward Farrars.  A more sleazy Willoughby, in my opinion, was the 2008 Dominic Cooper, who drew from a me a little more empathy in spite of being a rogue. There is quite a bit of sexuality played in the 2008 version with the seduction scene at the beginning. The interaction between Willoughby and Marianne is more tender and seductive as well. However, I’ve read that was a pain point with some critics (read here).  Austen and raunchy don’t mix. But in all honesty, there isn’t anything raunchy about the BBC version whatsoever.Sense1

Then we have Colonel Brandon, played by the late Alan Rickman in 1995, who did everything well on screen. It’s sad that he has left us and his fans have been robbed of great performances that were yet to come. Nevertheless, we are left with memories of older ones, even in this version of Sense & Sensibility.

In the 2008 version, we have David Morrissey, a handsome Brandon, who I thought more attractive but a bit too stiff in his role.   Alan had a little more heart in his performance than David did.  Morrissey is no longer wearing cravats and period clothing but has been on Zombie and sci-fi related shows in the past few years. Apparently, he’s working on another long-long-ago period drama set in 45 AD, Britannia. Maybe he’s taking up a toga instead.

Another thing that I like about the longer series version is that it’s not so rushed.  You also get to enjoy beautiful coastal scenery of Hartland, Devon, with quite a few shots of rolling waves crashing against the rocks. It brings back to me the quiet life of those time periods, when long walks, picnics, playing the piano forte, and finding husbands were the order of the day.

Both versions are available to rent and stream on Amazon.  However, the 2008 version is on Hulu, if you have a subscription there.