Mildred Pierce: Doormat.
by Meredith O’Brien
So I’ve been watching that much-heralded HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce, mostly because it stars Kate Winslet and I’m a sucker for anything that has Kate Winslet in it.
I went into this Depression era dramatic series with the expectation that I’d be watching and rooting for a plucky mother of two who’d been left by her cheating husband, scratch her way to make a living to support her family in a time when there weren’t many jobs for anyone, never mind for soon-to-be-divorced thirtysomething women with children.
By the end of the second installment of the five-part series, I was thrilled to see that Mildred had found a way to transform her talent and passion for cooking and baking – before her husband left her, she’d been baking cakes and pies and selling them out of the house as a little side business – into a livelihood by opening her own chicken and waffles restaurant which she named Mildred’s. I was all set to write about this character who was busting her hump to make money, first taking a job as a waitress and then gaining the help of a business associate of her ex-husband’s (with whom she started having relations) to help open her restaurant.
But then I became utterly and completely distracted by the hideous nature of Mildred’s oldest child, Veda, even before she grew up to be the young adult portrayed by actress Evan Rachel Wood. Morgan Turner did a wonderful job of depicting the young, odious Veda as a child who was so mean spirited and nasty that she made Veruca Salt from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie look like a benevolent, selfless saint.
In the third episode of Mildred Pierce, Veda unleashed a torrent of insults at her mother, spurning the expensive wristwatch Mildred had given her for Christmas because it wasn’t the piano Veda wanted (Mildred couldn’t afford a piano at the time), demeaning her mother for being a working mother and for appearing, in Veda’s judgmental eyes, classless. Though Mildred responded angrily at first, she vowed to get Veda the piano and continued to placate the noxious creature.
The New York Times called the - based on 1941 novel by James M. Cain - HBO Mildred Pierce mini-series “a revision of the mother of all mother movies” as Mildred serves as “the long-suffering embodiment of maternal sacrifice.”