Set during the Great Depression in America, Mildred Pierce is the story of a divorced woman who is trying to run her restaurant business while also dealing with her difficult daughter Veda.
Directed by Todd Haynes, the show stars Kate Winslet in the titular role. Watching Winslet’s Mildred come to terms with her new economic reality as she tries hard to like her daughter is nothing short of brilliant.
What is Mildred Pierce all about?
As the show opens, we learn that Mildred Pierce’s husband has abandoned the family and with no finances to back her, she has to find a way to earn a living. The scenes where Mildred goes out looking for work and rejects jobs as they are beneath her are quite baffling for an audience in the 21st century. But Todd Haynes sticks to his guns and stays true to the source material. The series is based on a novel of the same name by James M Cain.
Mildred’s struggles with her job, her eventual successful business and her relationships with men are consuming, but it is her relationship with her daughter Veda that swallows her fully. Veda is an arrogant girl. As a young girl, she does not hesitate in humiliating her mother because she finds going out to earn money demeaning. She does not even hesitate in slapping her mother because her mother has hit her. As an adult too, Veda’s intentions are never noble. She is conniving and has no problems in conning a man by faking a pregnancy.
It is this mother-daughter relationship that becomes the backbone of the 5-episode mini-series.
What works for Mildred Pierce?
The first thing that’s apparent as you start watching this show is its wonderful casting. Kate Winslet is a dream in the show as she transforms Mildred from a traditional pie-making housewife into a successful businesswoman who runs multiple restaurants. Not just the overall arc, in scenes that she shares with young Veda, you get to see her emotional dilemma in trying to like her daughter. Morgan Turner (young Veda) and Evan Rachel Wood (older Veda) are so deliciously vamp-ish without making it seem like a soap-opera.
Mildred Pierce is a slow-burn, but once you are in, it becomes a necessity to finish the show. Being a mini-series also helps in that department. The show also works brilliantly in portraying the era of the 1930s as the attention to detail is quite immaculate.
The exploration of relationships here, especially the one that Mildred shares with her ex-husband, is quite unique for a series set almost 90 years ago. Her relationship with Guy Pearce’s Monty Beragon is quite complicated, but her tough years have hardened her up for men who mooch money off her.
But what totally steals the show is the volatile relationship of Mildred and Veda. Veda despises her mother, and her lack of affection towards her mother is heartbreaking to watch. Mildred Pierce is antithetical to Gilmore Girls, and watching it from that perspective made me appreciate it even more.
What does not work for Mildred Pierce?
Mildred Pierce is a tad bit long for the content that it gives out in five episodes. With every episode lasting for over an hour, it urges you to fast forward to get to the point in some instances. Had Todd Haynes made a film out of the material, maybe it would have worked better. The novel inspired a 1945 film featuring Joan Crawford which deviated quite a lot from the source material.
Mildred Pierce was nominated for 18 Primetime Emmy Awards and won five. Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce won Emmys for their performances. The series was also nominated for four Golden Globe Awards. Winslet won here as well.
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Mildred Pierce is streaming on Hotstar.