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Mildred Pierce
SPOILERS
When the film started my first thought was “it must have taken forever to cut those waves frame-by-frame coming in over the opening credits” … anyways, after that, the film threw us right into the middle of a murder, which sets the plot in motion and led me to believe a lot of things, though none of them ended up true. At first, I thought this might be a movie where the story reveals the murderer from the get-go, and we are supposed to play catch-up for the rest of the runtime. That was partly true. But Mildred wasn’t the murderer and it really wasn’t about finding out why she killed that guy. It was to find out why that guy was there to begin with. It turned out to be more of a story about all the bullet points that would eventually add up to that very gun and exactly why it goes off.

You can definitely sense this story comes from a classic crime novel. It is filled with twists and turns and distinct characters in descriptive situations – laying out so many threads that there is enough for the entire rug that ends up being pulled away from under our feet. I think this is both a strong and a weak point with the film. It is fascinating and fun to slowly find out about the who’s and the why’s, but in a way, it also felt a bit like overtelling the story. It might be less of a flaw and more of a personal preference, but to me it didn’t screw the story tighter as it went along, but instead screwed around more with the plot than needed be. Simply put, the story could have been told “two or three reveals ago”. But it just wanted to always go that extra step. I understand the ambiguity and the excitement that all this creates – especially in book form where you can draw things out more – but in movie form it all felt a bit rushed or crammed together. I wouldn’t say they failed to make it work, but the plot just felt a little worn out by the end… or maybe it was just myself feeling worn out.

The movie clearly wants to go a long way for the sake of exciting storytelling and the element of surprise rather than the sake of realism and plausibility. The movie really went to the extremes to push all these buttons, but occasionally it just felt too written and not naturally presented – and too serious in subject matter for all the fun it was having with those buttons. I’m fine with that honestly, though I felt like the balance between murder investigation and family revelation wasn’t always perfect. In a sense it’s really one and the same though, which is also what makes this film unique – that the murder mystery is in fact a family tragedy. It is fun to follow every character collide with Mildred’s life and eventually somehow have a place in the midst of this mess. Joan Crawford is very good as the titular character and it almost feels like she was born to play it. Wally is a fun character, but very one-note. In a way, a lot of the characters are sort of one-note. At least they don’t really have the greatest of arcs – most of them are the same people from beginning to end. But they are very alive characters on their own and with a dose of that witty flow and loose dialogue it all works out well in the end. I would have liked Vida to have been introduced a bit better though, even if she works really well simply as a spoiled little brat – and a seriously evil one at that.

Somehow, I kept reading the title of the movie as ‘Mildred Piece’, which in a way still makes sense, since Mildred is persistently giving Vida a piece of her heart only to have that very heart pierced by Vida with every attempt she makes. So, I guess it works fine either way... Overall, I was always entertained but never entirely enveloped in the story. It was a good time nonetheless, I’m glad I saw it.



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