Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mildred Pierce. B+


After seeing Michael Curtiz' 1945 version of Mildred Pierce, I can imagine the new mini series directed by Todd Haynes and starring Kate Winslet would be pretty fascinating. But it took me long enough to see this 111 minute version, so I don't expect to sit down to the new five hour installment anytime soon. As for the movie itself, I liked it. It's a woman's picture, barely a noir, but enough so to add some bite to its melodramatic ambience. Joan Crawford is Mildred, a gorgeous housewife who apparently is responsible for the murder we see in the opening shots of the film. After initially framing a good friend for the death, Mildred winds up confessing to the crime once the police indicate a growing suspicion that she may be lying. The story then flashes back a few years, and this is really where we'll be for most of the movie. Mildred divorces her husband and becomes a waitress (to the chagrin of her oldest daughter, Veeda). Once she's learned the ropes of the job, her ambition takes over and she starts up her own restaurant business. Soon she's one of the most successful woman in California. One of the great pleasures of the movie is to see Mildred's character progress. She's a real force, like bulldozer destroying obstacles and expanding what she creates. To Mildred, there's no such thing as having too much of a good thing. Mildred's new husband, the one who is murdered at the start of the movie, is a charming businessman named Monte Beragon. A likable fellow who gets worse as the story goes on, Monte really is the reason Mildred's success crumbles. He has a way of capturing the minds of woman, including Veeda, a real witch with a terrible way of approaching life. Mildred Pierce is more of a feminist picture than a woman's picture. It really makes the female a driving force in society, and could actually be seen as a perfect model of why feminism advanced over the years. It's a good movie with great performances and a lot of complexion beneath it.

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