Mildred Pierce (2011)


Just watched the first two parts of this sumptuously mounted 2011 remake of the 1945 classic melodrama that won Joan Crawford her only Oscar. Oscar winner Kate Winslet inherits the role from Crawford in this steamy remake that fleshes out some of the characters and plotlines that were glossed over back in 1945. It is the height of the great depression where we meet Winslet as Mildred, a lonely housewife with two young daughters, the adorable Ray and the snooty and self-absorbed Veda. Mildred's philandering husband has just walked out on them, forcing Mildred to take a job as a waitress to support her daughters, even though she finds it shameful to take a job where she has to wear a uniform. As she learns the tips of the trade, she also manages a sideline providing pies for the restaurant, Before long, with the aid of her husband's former business partner, Wally, Mildred's dream of having her own restaurant is realized, as well as a new romance with a wealthy playboy named Monte Baragon, but her new business and romance are sidelined by an unexpected tragedy.

Todd Haynes, who directed Far From Heaven and I'm Not There, puts the same meticulous detail into the mounting of this story as he did to those films. He clearly goes back to the roots of the 1945 film, the novel by James M Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice), in establishing the independent spirit of the Mildred Pierce character from the beginning. Mildred gets over her husband walking out on her pretty quickly and even seems to take credit for it here. In the 1945 film, Crawford's Mildred is an intimidated wallflower who grows into her skills as a business woman. And even though we've just scratched the surface of it here at this point, this Mildred has had a mind of her own for a long time, but has sacrificed over and over for the sake of her girls. There's a great scene where she tells Veda about her plan to open her own restaurant and the way it plays, it comes off like she's saying it to Veda at the same time she's thinking about it for the first time. The Mildred in this story is screaming on the inside and as I've mentioned other reviews of her work, no actress today plays screaming on the inside better than Kate Winslet. Winslet won an Emmy for her powerhouse work in this miniseries and the endlessly versatile Guy Pearce won a Supporting Actor Emmy for his Monte Baragon. Brian F O'Byrne received a nomination for his flashy Bert Pierce and I also loved Mare Winningham as a world weary waitress named as Ida. The mini-series features spectacular production values, including Emmy-winning art direction/set direction and superb costumes. Contemporary melodrama at its finest. Can't wait to watch the rest.

I must have missed this one in 2011! As you know, the original was a great noir directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca).

They must have gone back to Cain's novel to get material to expand the original 110 minute run time to 5.5 hours. No doubt that Winslett will be excellent. I'm curious to see how Mare Winningham as Ida Corwin will compare to one of my favorites, Eve Arden, in the role.

Nice review, Gideon!

Oh my God, Citizen, I loved it...can't wait to watch the rest...thanks so much for finding it for me.
Itís terrific. Iíve seen it twice.

Had never heard of chicken with waffles before, but, apparently, itís still a thing.

@Citizen Rules
Iím here only on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. Thatís why Iím here now.

Just finished watching ep 3 where things really started to heat up. I was pleasantly surprised by the way Ray's death kind of brought Bert back into Mildred and Veda's lives. Don't really remember that happening in the Joan Crawford film. Bryan F O'Byrne was superb in those opening scenes surrounding the funeral. We also got see the subtle beginnings of the beginning of the relationship between Monte and Veda, which has a definite "ick" factor still because Veda is still a teenager right now (can't wait for Evan Rachel Wood to take over the role). Veda was unapologetically nasty in that scene where she repeated to her mother things Monte said about her though any real parent would have thrown Veda out of the house when she slapped her. Guy Pearce totally registered in both of his scenes with Winslet, where he attempts to quiet her unhappiness with sex, though it only worked once. Loved when the restaurant opened and Ida (Mare Winningham) showed up as a guest but saw Mildred was in trouble and started pitching in. I'm wondering if Lucy's idea for a liquor license is going to figure into the story more. Oscar winner Melissa Leo is making the most of a thankless role. Loved the scene with Veda's piano teacher was the first (and probably the only) time we'll see Veda truly humbled for awhile.

Watched the first 2 eps. My favorite? The production design, set design, and costuming. Many productions about that era tend to be too colorful, too exaggerated. This is just right IMO. And period-correct filming locales have gotten harder and harder to find over the years, as famous buildings and landmarks have been torn down.

Whinningham is good, although I'd love to have seen someone like Nina Arianda play the role of Ida Corwin. Guy Pearce is a pretty good pick to play the sleeze Monte. He's reminiscent of Zachary Scott who played the role in the '45 film.

The producer and writers have obviously kept the story closer to the book, so that may mean no deaths later...

Did you get the idea that the characters played by Mare Winningham and Melissa Leo were turned into a single character that Eve Arden played in the '45 film?

Evan Rachel Wood did not disappoint as she finally took over the role of Veda in part 4. Wood knocked it out of the park with a ferocious performance as the evil spitfire let loose venom on her mother like you wouldn't believe. Wood was nothing short of brilliant in that scene where she offered Mildred her version of what happened with the boy, who turned out to be the son of Hope Davis' snooty Mrs. Forrester from part one, a brilliant twist I didn't see coming and I loved the fact that Mildred and Mrs. Forrester couldn't remember where they met...or did they? I was cheering when Mildred finally threw Veda out of the house but then wanted to throw things at the screen when I realized that she regretted it the second she did it. Wood was also nominated for an Emmy for her work here and she was totally robbed.

Just finished part 5 and must offer bouquets to HBO and director Todd Haynes for seeing the entertainment value in going back to James M Cain's novel and bringing us Mildred's story the way it was meant to be told. Don't get me wrong, the 1945 Joan Crawford classic is sterling entertainment, but this mini-series is a much richer and more believable story without time constraints and studio interference. I have to get one logistical issue that I couldn't get past out of the way first. I really had issues with this instant rise to fame of Veda as coloratura soprano. After years of allegedly studying the piano, are we supposed to just accept that, at the age of 20, Veda learned how to be a classical singer in the matter of a few months? We didn't hear her sing a single note up to this point and I just found that really hard to swallow. I started piano lessons when I was four and realized I could sing when I was seven, and Veda developing perfect vocal technique in three months was something I couldn't swallow. Not to mention, as much as I loved Ronald Guttman's performance as Carlos Treviso, there are piano teachers and there are voice teachers, but no one does both. OK, now that I have that out of the way, let me say that part five was a sizzling 90 minutes which provided a lot of surprises because the story from this point on was so different than the story Michael Curtiz told in 1945. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Monte had less to do with the failure of Mildred's business than I suspected, especially after Guy Pearce's electric seduction of Mildred in those opening scenes. The Monte in this mini-series had the same kind of power over Mildred than Zachary Scott's Monte but this Monte was much less manipulative than Scott was. Pearce's Emmy for his work here was well-earned. Loved that scene where Mildred faced Wally and her creditors and the scene where Mildred discovered Monte and Veda's deception didn't disappoint either. Winslet was just electrifying here and made us believe the lovely denoument as well. Spectacular entertinment, bouquets all around.+

Did you get the idea that the characters played by Mare Winningham and Melissa Leo were turned into a single character that Eve Arden played in the '45 film?
More or less. Leo's part (Lucy Gessler) evidently was abandoned for the '45 film. But nobody was better than Arden when it came to wisecracking and sarcasm. BTW I haven't read the book.

I'm sure that Curtiz and the producer Jerry Wald, along with Warner Bros. wanted to make a crime film, a good noir. The book (and the miniseries) is really not a noir, although it has noirish elements.

Then too, they had to cut a big book down to 100 minutes, where, as you say, the miniseries could develop much more of the book.

Now that miniseries have become common-- man, there's a boatload of novels they could nicely tackle that wouldn't have been possible in a 90 or 120 minute movie.

I've never read the book either, but I do know there's a whole lot of stuff that was in this miniseries that wasn't in the movie...the ending was completely different.

I've never read the book either, but I do know there's a whole lot of stuff that was in this miniseries that wasn't in the movie...the ending was completely different.
Heh. Yeah, you're right. I bailed on the series after the 3rd episode, but I went back and watched the final two last night.

From the synopsis I read about the James N. Cain novel, the miniseries was actually pretty faithful to it-- to its detriment. The movie was much more dynamic, it moved along better, and Veda gets her just desserts in the end.

The series treatment had Mildred's character involved in and reacting to her daughter in too many scenes. We know Veda is a bee-itch, and that Mildred lets Veda walk all over her, but keeps on loving and providing for her. I like the movie much better.

I will say that the series had some excellent facets. The settings, coloring, and production design were perfect. I thought Veda at both ages were good casting, as was Guy Pearce as Monty. Melissa Leo was also good as Mildred's friend and associate. Mildred's first husband, Bert, could have been better cast. He looked too much like a rube or a hayseed, which made us wonder why she took up with him in the first place. I'm really not a Winslett fan, but she did very competent work in this one, whereas Joan Crawford gave an acting class in the film.

Anyway, the series was worth a watch, but it couldn't hold up to the 1945 film noir version.

As much as I loved this remake, I will admit that Veda got off WAY too easy in the series but got exactly what she deserved in the 1945 film.