MILDRED PIERCE (HBO) Part 3 Advance Review

MILDRED PIERCE (HBO)

MILDRED PIERCE (HBO) Part 3 – Mildred goes on a roller coaster of melodrama you can’t help but sink into as she faces the morning after Ray’s death and then moves on with her life in the third part of HBO’s MILDRED PIERCE.

This much quicker installment of Mildred Pierce takes us through the grief over losing Ray and through Mildred opening her restaurant and falling deeper into a relationship with Monty. The pacing is much better as this chapter ebbs and flows into a tumultuous climax. All the characters are well used and there are some nice touches to solidify the era-we learn Mildred’s political views, for example.

Poor little Ray. She was the sweet child, the one who actually loved her mother, and now she’s gone, leaving Mildred with only the hateful, insatiable Veda. What does it say about Mildred that if forced to choose, she would prefer to lose Ray than Veda? What need drives Mildred to constantly seek Veda’s phantom love and approval? There are times I want to shake Mildred for her undying devotion to her wretch of a daughter, especially when you can clearly see Mildred knows she’s a demon seed. Of course, it’s that paradox of Mildred’s business savvy and personal foolishness that makes her so darn fascinating.

Mildred Pierce runs into one major problem toward the end of Part 3: Morgan Turner is too young to play Veda in a key confrontation between Mildred and Veda. She looks like a little girl playing dress-up, cigarette dangling from her mouth, and she doesn’t yet have the gravitas to pull off the harsh dialogue. This isn’t a slam at her acting-Turner is actually quite good as the spoiled brat, but this scene calls for an ennui and bitterness that can only come with age, and seeing Turner pulls me right out of the moment. I understand director Todd Haynes not wanting to change actresses in the middle of an installment, but this is a missed opportunity.

One opportunity that definitely wasn’t missed is the casting of Guy Pearce as Monty Beragon. With a lesser actor, Monty could have been a one-note oaf, but instead he’s an irresistible rogue and he and Mildred electrify their scenes. This coupling is one of the most dynamic and well matched, acting-wise, I’ve seen in a long time- whether they’re playing, fighting, or having sex. Actually, all the men in Mildred’s life are perfectly cast and surprisingly enjoyable while shedding light on her personality and in different ways. I especially love the restaurant scene where we see them all together

As enjoyable as the men are, the smart, loyal women in Mildred’s life rival them and add a great deal to the story that was missing in the 1945 film. You can’t get better than Mare Winningham as the no-nonsense but compassionate Ida and Melissa Leo as the tough, tell it like it is Lucy. I’m at least as interested in these women’s interactions as I am in the soapier aspects of the story.

Mildred Pierce hums along in Part 3 as Mildred’s life gets ever more complicated. I may not always understand what Mildred is thinking, but I’m thrilled to be along for the ride as Kate Winslet lights up the screen in her incredibly layered portrayal of a woman who is simultaneously independent and co-dependent. That the miniseries is also stunning to look at and increasingly filled with soapy goodness is a terrific bonus.

After you’ve watched Part 3 of Mildred Pierce tonight on HBO, I hope you’ll come back and post what you thought. Why do you think Mildred is so desperate for Veda’s approval? Let me know in the comments.

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