So I´ve just finished watching the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce with the redoubtable Kate Winslet. I think she deserved an Emmy for eyebrow work alone - formidable.
In terms of the series itself, the main theme is the relationship between Mildred and her daughter Veda. Veda is a narcissistic nightmare and Mildred a self-sacrificing enabler. I liked the fact that they managed to convey every character´s flaws. It´s clear that Mildred is controlling and judgemental, Veda is spoiled and a manipulative snob (young actress Morgan Turner is astonishing in her ability to irritate), Monty is weak and irresponsible, Burt is a philanderer but a pretty good guy - throw them all together and you get a heck of an American potboiler.
And I loved the sets. I was convinced they´d found some little Spanish Revival bungalow in California somewhere - but it turns out they built the interiors themselves.
They found most of the locations back on Long Island of all places, since much has been lost in California. I have to say they did a remarkable job evoking the time and the place.
One of the nice things about the miniseries format is that they have time to show you quiet moments to reveal character without steaming ahead through the plot. I think the Director Todd Haynes did a remarkable job of creating a woman´s world in the Depression, and on the ideas of wealth, work and class in America. There´s great use of glass and reflection to great advantage (Saul Leiter´s photography was an inspiration). I thought that was a masterful metaphor for how we observe/present something. Are you seeing through the character or projecting a preconceived image onto them? Are they reflecting what you want to see? A very interesting choice for being observed/judged.
Is it credible that Veda becomes a successful opera singer in a matter of months? Could Mildred possibly be so blind to her daughter´s character for so long? Debatable, but it´s all in the original novel by James M. Caine (The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity (1943).
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I´ve got a serious case of kitchen envy.
For more on the production design click here.