The 1945 film version of the James M. Cain novel Mildred Pierce, a family melodrama about a long-suffering divorcée and her spoiled daughter, is a cult classic. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and Joan Crawford, in the titular role, snagged the Best Actress trophy. This Sunday, HBO premieres its own, hotly anticipated miniseries version, with Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road, The Reader) in the lead role, and Melissa Leo (Oscar winner for The Fighter), Guy Pearce (The King's Speech) and Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, "True Blood") in supporting parts. Acclaimed Oscar-nominee Todd Haynes (I'm Not There, Far from Heaven) directs. Critics are calling it "perfect" and a "masterpiece." Is it really? (Watch the stars discuss "Mildred Pierce")
Yes, this is a masterpiece "If I see a richer, more perfect drama on TV this year, I'll be surprised," says Matt Zoller Seitz at Salon. I was skeptical, but it is truly a "masterpiece." In the title role, Kate Winslet is "terrific," and overall, it's a "technical and artistic triumph" with convincing period costumes and sets, an "introspective" score, and beautiful cinematography.
"'Mildred Pierce' is a quiet, heartbreaking masterpiece"
It's not without its faults: Haynes' "painstaking effort to restore every brushstroke of the... original story paints over the ambiguities of class and social ambition" that make the Pierce family interesting, says Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times. While Winslet is an "amazing actress," the writers and costume designers haven't done her any favors. The "character flaws and class limitations that made Mildred Pierce such a distinctive and modern heroine" are lacking in this script, and Winslet's costumes, while suited to the times, are "drab," "dowdy," and "unflattering." Where's the sexual allure?
"A mother's love, unrequited"
And let's be honest. It's boring: "This series can be a slog," says Paige Wise in the Chicago Sun-Times. While there are plenty of themes for film buffs to analyze, as well as ample Emmy fodder for Winslet, and atmospheric shots where little happens, there's little in the way of compelling entertainment. "This is not event TV like 'Boardwalk Empire.'" The five-hour series is "tough to watch... especially when you want to slap the characters the whole time."
"Winslet serves up pity for 'Mildred'"