Gorgeously shot, brilliantly acted, and perfectly structured, Mildred Pierce exemplifies the best of that slippery pseudo-genre known as film noir (is it a genre, a style, a period?). For me, the film is especially notable for its representation of mother-daughter relationships, even if that depiction ends up being incredibly problematic–how fitting given that Joan Crawford, who plays the title character, would later become synonymous with bad mothering after her adoptive daughter’s scathing memoir, Mommie Dearest, and its film adaptation? Despite the subtext created by Crawford’s biography and the film’s troubling conclusion, one still can’t help but admire Mildred’s fierce independence and determination. The trailer below emphasizes Mildred’s will-to-power, but this feminist argues that Crawford’s performance complicates the character:
Imagine my surprise when I heard that Todd Haynes, writer and director of some of my favorite films, is currently shooting a new version of Mildred Pierce starring my favorite living actress, Kate Winslet, in the title role. This new version will air on HBO as a 5 hour mini-series, giving Haynes and company more breathing room than the original. Kevin Jagernauth from The Playlist speculates that given the additional running time, co-screenwriters Haynes and Jon Raymond will likely return to the original source material, James M. Cain‘s novel of the same name, rather than follow the 1945 film. I suspect that drawing from the book may result in a more progressive text (Cain wrote the book as a satire of bourgeouis values), a bent I’ve come to expect from films directed by Haynes. I also imagine that the film will exhibit many of the same traits as films previously under Haynes’ direction–an interest in melodrama, period mise-en-scene, and strong female characters a la Far From Heaven. Hopefully the perfectly chosen players for this project will equal a statisfying whole.
The personel selected for the Mildred Pierce are almost too perfect. I mean, Evan Rachel Wood as the ungrateful daughter, Veda? Wood has made a career out of playing this role! I worry that the film will fall into the traps of other re-workings (see the Gus Van Sant directed version of Psycho)–I’ve seen so many terrible remakes with brilliant casts, directors, and writers that I will do everything to temper my expectations but will probably fail.