Mad About Mildred Pierce: HBO’s Miniseries Premieres

Weekly Lizard

The five-part HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” based on the novel by James M. Cain premieres this Sunday, March 27—and while nothing can replace the original film, we couldn’t be more excited to see this new take on a classic. Starring Kate Winslet, Evan Rachel Wood, Guy Pearce, and Mare Winningham, and directed by Todd Haynes, this adaptation boasts an über-talented cast that’s sure to make their mark. For the full scoop, we went to our friends at Word&Film for their take on the the memorable women of Mildred Pierce.

It’s been less than twenty-four hours since Mare Winningham watched writer-director Todd Haynes‘ five-part HBO miniseries adaptation of James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce for the first time and the actress has already nailed the essence of the film with pinpoint precision: “It’s like “The Godfather,” says Winningham, who plays the title character’s salty truth-telling friend and fellow waitress, “But with women.”

There are no horse heads tucked under pillows in the latest iteration of “Mildred Pierce.” But watching Haynes’ stunningly relevant, contemporary, and visually lush take on Cain’s surprisingly un-noir novel offers a full immersion experience into a time and place vis a vis one family, not unlike the way the Corleone family unlocked a window into the criminal underworld of the 1940s run by Italian immigrants. Pierce, on the other hand, explores the contours of Depression-era Los Angeles through the experience of a single mom struggling to maintain her foothold in the middle class as the ground gives way beneath her after her marriage crumbles along with the economy. It’s rare to be treated to such a comprehensive portrait of an historic moment in time from the perspective of multiple generations of a family dominated by strong, stormy, and singular women.

First among those women is Mildred. Kate Winslet embodies the title character with a quiet grace and dignity leaving behind the shrill victimhood Joan Crawford brought to the role in the 1945 version of the story. Winslet’s Mildred is this film’s solid central conduit through which we experience the chaotic swirl of characters who depend on her strength when they’re not resenting it. There’s the series of weak-willed disappointing men beginning with her goodhearted ex-husband (Bryan F. O’Byrne), her sharky business partner (James LeGros), and her layabout lover (Guy Pearce). But what makes this story such an insightful and fascinating departure from the expected tropes of the genre is that Peirce’s most obsessive and destructive relationship is not with a man but with her daughter, Veda (played by Morgan Turner as a child and Evan Rachel Wood as a young woman), who grows up to be a sophisticated and smug musical prodigy. “We didn’t want it to be cut and dry that Veda was bad,” says producer Christine Vachon. “We wanted to explore why she was the way she was and this whole idea that Mildred worked so hard for her daughter to move into the next class. And by virtue of that, her daughter has to look down at those beneath her. That’s a tragedy.”

For more, read the complete article on Word&Film.