Mildred Pierce, Part V

Previously on Mildred Pierce: Mildred opened a chain of restaurants but was still unable to please the dreadful Veda, who finally took one step too far when she wound up blackmailing some poor sap. So, Mildred kicked her out of the house, and Veda became a singing star.

Mildred intercepts Mr. Treviso as he’s leaving the music school and introduces herself as Veda’s mother. That immediately puts the man on his guard. Mildred fails to notice and plows on, telling him she’d like him to start forwarding Veda’s bills directly to her. Treviso tells her no way and excuses himself. Mildred gapes for a bit and follows him outside to protest. Treviso speaks for the audience when he asks Mildred why she wants this girl back so badly anyway. He continues to be awesome by going on to say that Veda’s a really talented coloratura, but a spectacularly awful human being, and he’s not interested in pissing her off.  Plus, Veda warned him that, after she was on the radio, her pathetic mother would probably come around and start trying to pay for the lessons, and if that was the case, he was to send her packing. Wow, does Veda have her mother pegged or what? How does she know Mildred so well and Mildred knows Veda so little?

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Mildred Pierce Part IV

Previously on Mildred Pierce: Mildred opened her first restaurant, to great acclaim, and started raking in enough cash to keep Veda somewhat satisfied. She also allowed Monty to start a seriously inapproprate relationship with her young daughter, and when she finally wakes up to that (and to how totally insufferable he’s making her kid), Mildred breaks up with him.

Jaunty music brings us to the coast, where waves crash, seagulls wheel, and Mildred and Lucy arrive at a large clapboard house to scope it out as the next outpost of Mildred’s fast-growing waffle house empire. Lucy approves, even though she wonders if Mildred’s stretching herself a bit thin, financially, having already opened a second place in Beverly Hills, run by Ida. Mildred wants Lucy to run the new beachfront place, and after some persuading, Lucy agrees, as long as they don’t do chicken. She knows people don’t come to the shore for chicken, so they’ll come for surf ‘n turf instead, which Lucy apparently invents right then and there. I’ve never really understood the great appeal of surf ‘n turf. I’ve never looked down at a plate and thought “you know what this lobster really needs? A steak!” I mean, how much saturated fat and cholesterol do you really need in one dish?

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Mildred Pierce: Part III

Previously on Mildred Pierce: Mildred kicked her husband to the curb, got a job as a waitress to pay the bills, and was forced to open a restaurant to win the approval of her dreadful daughter, Veda. She also met and started sleeping with Monty Beragon, and then her younger daughter died.

The camera sloooooowly pans over Mildred’s bare feet, up her body, to her arm, still cuddling Veda as they lay in bed together, spooned up, asleep, apparently the day after Rae’s death. Mildred wakes, takes a second to look over at the empty bed next to Vedas, and holds Veda a little closer.

Later, downstairs, Bert’s sitting at the table, looking like he just got sucker punched, which he did, in a sense. Lucy’s there too. She offers Bert a drink but he gently refuses and then goes and stands in front of the window and stares out. Lucy hustles out to scare up a black dress for Mildred, and Bert turns around, looking lost, and tells Mildred that Rae’s in heaven, because she was sweet and wonderful and deserves to be. Mildred agrees and goes and hugs him.

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Mildred Pierce: Part II

Welcome back to the wonderful world of Mildred Pierce. We rejoin our leading lady loading up pie plates with rocks in her bedroom so she can practice carrying multiple laden dishes. Smart. The lyrics to the no doubt carefully chosen song are “I’m always chasing rainbows, watching clouds passing by,” for those who are interested in such things.

Mildred’s practice is interrupted by the sound of the front door closing and the kids squealing happily. She goes downstairs and finds Bert, who explains he stopped by to pick up a few things he left in his desk. Mildred smiles and invites him to put his feet up for a while. The girls happily fill him in on their doings, and then Vita asks him if he’d like a Scotch, in that very hoity-toity proper way of hers. Bert seems surprised there’s Scotch to be had, considering it’s illegal and all, but he says he’s cool with a drink, so Mildred, her smile getting tight, goes to fetch it.

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Mildred Pierce: Part I

Now that they’ve conquered the 1920’s with Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s decided to move on to the ‘30’s, and they made the rather gutsy decision to do Mildred Pierce, a novel that already has a classic movie version starring Joan Crawford, who won an Academy Award for the role. HBO countered that by bringing their own Oscar winner—Kate Winslet, and stuffing the rest of the cast with other highly respected actors (including recent winner Melissa Leo, who plays one of my favorite characters). It’s early days yet, so it’s hard to tell if this version treats the source material better than the 1945 film. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Moody music plays against an art-deco background that looks a bit like stylized sunbeams. Interestingly, the supporting players are all introduced before Winslet and the title. They come at the very end of the credits, in big, bold letters.

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