Mildred Pierce Review

HBO is known for its big and lavish miniseries.  Band of Brothers is considered one of the greatest works of entertainment ever.  John Adams broke records for the most amount of Emmys won by a television program.  This year comes along Mildred Pierce.  In terms of quality, Mildred Pierce is more of a John Adams (an overrated and lackluster miniseries that is, however, still good enough to justify the HBO brand) rather than a Band of Brothers.

Mildred Pierce follows Mildred Pierce (Kate Winslet), a California native during the Great Depression, as she tries to find a living now that her husband has left her.  She does have some things that will help her along the way such as her mastery of making pies.  However, she also has some thing that will hinder as well, her daughter Veda (played in early parts of the series by Morgan Turner and in later parts by Evan Rachel Wood).

The miniseries is direct and written by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven).  Jonathan Raymond co-writes the script with Haynes.  Haynes direction of the miniseries is superb.  Haynes shows no worries about creating an entirely different atmosphere from the original Joan Crawford film version and never allows the film to indulge into boredom.  That is the major problem of the script.  Haynes and Raymond make the unwise choice of trying to stay to close to the book version of the story.  This results in a script that allows the miniseries to be over five hours long for a story that could have easily been told in two hours.  As a result, it seems that much time is wasted and characters are made to take actions just to waste time in the story.  The third act also should have had problems (and does in the script) and the major character choices shouldn't pack such a punch.  Luckily, with Haynes at the helm and some phenomenal actors in front of the camera a big moment at the end involving Mildred and Veda chills you to the core.

The acting really is the highlight of the miniseries.  Kate Winslet is her normal phenomenal self.  She creates a character that has many flaws and makes her like able (when her character easily could have come off as a naive idiot that you keep screaming at).  Winslet is also not afraid (as usual) to make her character sexy.  This performance is actually better than her Oscar-winning performance in The Reader.  Although that is as far as my praise will go for her.  This in the end is one of her lesser roles.  Evan Rachel Wood will also get much praise for her portrayal of Veda.  Unfortunately, she is not as great as they claim.  She does nail her pivotal scene (and proves how brave she is by appearing completely naked in the scene), but she has trouble creating a chemistry with Winslet and finding any common ground with the other actress portraying Veda earlier in the series.  The other big name in the series, recent Oscar champ Mellisa Leo, is largely disposable, but Mare Winningham is solid as a business first-friends second associate of Mildred.  Of the men, Brian F. O'Byrne and Guy Pearce (who is always amazing anyways) are great and easily create a chemistry with Winslet.

Like all HBO series, the behind-the-camera production qualities of the miniseries are lavish.  I could go on about how great all of it is but I really want to take note of the musical score.  The score is composed by Carter Burwell and it is such a delight to see film crew members not only work on television programs but treat it like anything else they do (instead of using the thinking that film is somehow a step above television).  Burwell's work here is some of the best you will see all year on any medium.

Mildred Pierce is a miniseries that could have achieved greatness if it didn't get so bogged down by a poor script.  Nonetheless Winslet, the supporting men and Carter Burwell's score are phenomenal in this.


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