Quick recap: Mildred Pierce is the story of a woman who started out as a housewife whose husband had just left her, to becoming a successful restaurant owner. Her life seems perfect, except for the fact that her second husband is only in it for the money and her daughter Veda is about as spoiled as you can get. It’s almost as if there is a lesson to be learned here, maybe something about money and selling out?
Fun (?) fact: Nobody really wanted Joan Crawford in this movie. Everyone was gunning for Bette Davis, but when she turned it down, they had no choice. Crawford ended up earning an Academy award for her performance, but that didn’t change the fact that people didn’t much care for her.
My thoughts: At this point in my list, nothing strikes more fear in me than the word ‘melodrama’. As has previously been noted, I am not a fan of the genre. It just seems like such a cheap way to do cinema: to tug on the heartsrings of the audience and make them love you. On the other hand, the formula works. This movie did very well in its time and won several awards. I’m sure that back when it was first released, it was a film that appealed to a wide audience and had many plot points that people loved to discuss. I do understand why it made the list, but it just wasn’t the movie for me.
For starters, nothing screams ‘melodrama!’ more than someone getting murdered during the very first scene of the film. And as what has become my pet peeve, the death was in no way realistic. I don’t know why I expected more because that was just how you did things back then. But it just made the movie seem even more cheap and hokey.
Although I didn’t love the plot, I do think some of the actors did a fine job telling the story. The actress who played Veda was my favorite. She played the bratty socialite to perfection. She did a fine job showing her true colors, as well as attempting to hide them when she was trying to get what she wanted. The performance I didn’t love, however, was that of Joan Crawford. I admit that there was some bias beforehand, because the only thing I knew about her was ‘Mommie Dearest’.I wavered back and forth throughout the entire movie, trying to decide if I could really see her talent or not. And even now, I don’t know. The movie called for a strong woman, someone who doesn’t crumble in the face of adversity, and Crawford plays that like no one else can. But also, the character of Mildred Pierce is supposed to invoke sympathy with the audience. I was supposed to sit there and think, ‘oh my god, that poor woman’, and I didn’t feel that way at all. Crawford could never seem to lose the ‘bitch’ face, like when she was interacting with her children. The acting stopped being realistic and started to take on the melodrama title proudly.
The revelation that Veda was the real killer was not a surprise, but I liked that the movie turned salacious when it was revealed she was having an affair with Pierce’s second husband. I’m sure that was shocking at the time. The twist seemed reminiscent of a VC Andrews book, which, if she were still alive, Joan Crawford would’ve been perfect for a role in an adaptation of any one of those books.
Final review: 2/5. Melodrama.
Up next: most likely Brokeback Mountain