July 28, 2021

Mildred Pierce: a classic melodrama with Kate Winslet

Last Wednesday I analyzed ‘Mare of Easttown’ one of the sensations of this year 2021, so nothing better than to follow that thread and dedicate our memory entry every Friday to ‘Mildred Pierce’, the first great television miniseries starring by Kate Winslet to complete the vision of her television work.

‘Mildred Pierce’ is a melodrama with all of the law, indebted to the films of Douglas Sirk, the great master of the genre. It is the perfect vehicle for an actress like Kate Winslet to shine as a character of a woman who must survive a series of hardships during the great depression of the 1930s, in the same way that Jane Crawford did in a 1940s film version of the novel by the renowned James M. Cain.

In these circumstances, if they have been left with a monkey to continue seeing Kate Winslet on the screen after her interpretation of Mare Sheehan, the viewing of ‘Mildred Pierce’ can alleviate that lack, during its five episodes available on the Spanish branch of HBO .

File: Mildred Pierce 5 ep 60 m Mar-abr 2011 Chain: HBO (USA) – USA (E)

Synopsis: Mildred Pierce finds herself at a serious crossroads in her life, when in the middle of the Great Depression she separates from her unfaithful husband and must start looking for a job to raise her two daughters.

After great difficulty finding a job due to her lack of work experience in the midst of the Great Depression, she begins working as a waitress in a Hollywood restaurant.

Observer and ambitious, she quickly learns the trade and decides to make the leap to open her own restaurant based on the high quality of her cakes and specializing in a very specific chicken recipe. The success of the proposal allows her to prosper professionally, but instead her personal life is quite complicated, especially due to her tortuous relationship with her eldest daughter Veda, who will torment her for the rest of her days.

The beggining: Todd Haynes is a director with a certain reputation in independent film circles, due to a quite personal and differentiated style that raises passions and outbursts in equal measure, since his debut with the film ‘Poison’, in which he began his collaboration with his producer Christine Vachon, whom he met at Brown University.

Faced with the growing difficulties in carrying out his film projects after the success of his melodrama ‘Far from Heaven’, Vachon (left) began to insist to Todd Haynes (right) that they should study the possibilities of making a television product for the networks of cable.

At that time Haynes was reading ‘Mildred Pierce’ the novel by James M. Cain, coinciding in time with the economic crash of 2008, so that the theme of a woman who must survive during the great depression, was much more current and relevant to start working on your first television project.

For the writing of the script, he had the collaboration of his friend Jon Raymond, a playwright and novelist who is the usual collaborator of the scripts of the filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, including his latest film ‘First Cow’, focusing his adaptation in a more reliable way to the book that 1945 film adaptation with Joan Crawford.

Both wrote the script with four hands, Todd Haynes reserving the complete direction of the entire miniseries that was quickly acquired by HBO, a great supporter of these quality series starring middle-aged women such as’ Olive Kitteridge ‘or films such as’ Temple Grandin ‘that always bring him nominations and statuettes in the main television awards.

Its premiere in spring 2011 was preceded by the following promotional trailer

The reception of ‘Mildred Pierce’ both at the critical and audience level, was somewhat below the usual for HBO, especially when the awards were only obtained by the actors, being defeated as best miniseries that same year for the first season of ‘Downton Abbey’

The plot: ‘Mildred Pierce’ is basically the biography of the protagonist during the 1930s that begins at the height of the great depression and ends with the economic recovery of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’.

In those years, everything happens to poor Mildred Pierce, concentrating her joys on her professional projects that will allow her to get out of the deep well in which she was plunged, reaching a certain economic prosperity.

On the contrary, all the misfortunes focus on her personal life with continuous blows that crush her throughout all the years, especially when produced by her closest and loved ones, her husband, her later lovers and above all his two daughters, especially the eldest, the wayward Veda.

‘Mildred Pierce’ is a linear work where we witness all the things that happen to the protagonist, without narrations or voice-overs to explain what we are seeing on the screen, although soon we will be very clear that Mildred’s suffering Pierce is going to be the main thread of continuity despite his efforts to find the silver lining.

A significant aspect of character development is having the feeling that her hardships are pure bad luck and always caused or provoked by chance or the people around her, without poor Mildred Pierce being directly responsible for the things that happen to her, when almost all the people take advantage of his good will and his capacity to sacrifice for his loved ones, which is never reciprocated at his level.

The relationship with his daughter is the common thread of his misfortunes and is divided into two parts, in the first three episodes, Veda is minor and rebellious being played by Morgan Turner, who gives the witness in the last two installments to Evan Rachel Wood who embodies an adult Veda, emancipated and in full conflict with her mother as she thrives on an unexpected professional career.

This family plan is completed with aspects of his love life, with a certain tendency to fall in love with quite toxic and exploited people, to end his professional life in the field of restoration.

These three shots complement each other and interact on various occasions but always within that tone of intense melodrama, especially in the final section of ‘Mildred Pierce’, where the intensity of the relationship between Kate Winslet and Evan Rachel Wood makes sparks fly. screen, as you can see in the following video.

Melodramas have never been my favorite film genre and this time ‘Mildred Pierce’ has not made me change my opinion, despite having a perfect setting and great performances, but the accumulation of misfortunes that happened to the poor protagonist, Especially in the final section, they made me feel uncomfortable in front of what I was seeing and it ended up being quite long.

That does not mean that it is not a good miniseries, because it is, but in the section I have had enough musical moments that lengthened the footage excessively, something that did not happen in the first episodes much more focused and that allowed Kate Winslet to do another one of those master classes of interpretation to which he has us accustomed.

In the most positive aspect, highlight the setting and the quality of the production in every way, as you can see in the following video that shows the filming process in New York where they reproduced the California of the thirties.

Actors:

British Kate Winslet has been a movie star for almost a quarter of a century, when her participation in the mega-hit ‘Titanic’ catapulted her to fame that has not yet fallen with Oscars (The Reader), Emmy (Mildred Pierce ) and a Grammy for an audiobook, so he only needs to go to Broadway to round out the awards poker called EGOT.

His second stage of awards was with Mildred Pierce, a character that he accepted shortly after winning the Oscar for ‘The Reader’ and where he appears in almost all the scenes of the miniseries without any secondary character existing without having a direct relationship or life of his own. without her presence, being awarded the Emmy for best actress.

With such a workload Kate Winslet was able to show off with other of those great performances common in her career, reinforced by her gestural ability to convey all kinds of sensations without the need to speak, an essential ability to succeed in a melodrama of this caliber.

Morgan Turner plays her eldest daughter Veda in her adolescent stage in a very convincing way, showing the evolution of a sweet and applied girl to a rebellious adolescent who continually confronts her mother.

Her subsequent career has not lived up to the expectations that she would have created after her great reveal and I have only seen her in the recent Jumanji saga, with a very changed appearance after defining herself as non-binary.

Quite the opposite has been the case of Evan Rachel Wood who takes over in the last two episodes, who has continued to have a very solid career and who has established her as one of the best actresses of her generation with just 33 years in the actuality.

She began as a child and adolescent actress in both series and films until she uncovered in the film ‘Thirteen’ which was her first leap up the Hollywood ladder, going from independent cinema to large productions such as ‘The Wrestler’ or appearances as the queen from ‘True Blood’

In ‘Mildred Pierce’ she shows how great an actress she is, by managing to be at the same height as Kate Winslet in all the scenes they share, making a quite excessive character credible on several occasions. She has continued to work tirelessly, standing out especially as the protagonist of ‘Westworld’.

The second nod to ‘Mare of Easttown’ is in the presence of Australian Guy Pearce as Monty Beragon, Mildred Pierce’s lover after her divorce from her first husband. Pearce did not hesitate to accept the call of his good friend Kate Winslet, to replace the actor planned in ‘Mare of Easttown’, for a supporting character well below his usual cache.

Her character in Mildred Pierce is halfway between the gigolo and the hustler, but she is skilled enough to offer Mildred what she needs in every moment in the form of love, care and passion. His on-screen chemistry is impressive and he earned the Best Supporting Actor statuette for his performance, after which he has continued to work tirelessly to this day.

Epilogue:

After talking to you about Mare of Easttown last Wednesday, I felt obliged to complete that vision of Kate Winslet’s television works by talking about her miniseries Mildred Pierce, with the added value of being able to find her easily on HBO, if they don’t know or know her. It misplaced them at the time of its broadcast. To end the article I leave you with a video about the process of creating the series.

We await your opinions and comments, here or on our twitter account (@lmejino). Until next time

Lorenzo Mejino