dir. michael curtiz
At the start of the “independent woman” movement and falling on the tail end of the “weepie” era, Mildred Pierce finds Joan Crawford in the titular role that earned her an Academy Award. Torn between her morals and her desire to give her daughter everything in the world, Mildred walks a fine line in the world of business and in love.
“I was always in the kitchen. I felt as though I’d been born in a kitchen and lived there all my life, except for the few hours it took to get married.”
It’s a long winded film, and winding at that. Told primarily in flashback, it opens on a murder and leads you down several paths making you think you know what’s going on. In retrospect, the film is brilliant; it is constantly showing Mildred’s devotion to her daughter Veda, whether you think it is or not, but in the midst of it there seems to be little point for what’s happening. When it becomes fully apparent, even to Mildred, that the true villain of the film is Veda, it seems improbable that the devotion would stay, yet this is perhaps the most complicated mother-daughter film to date, and that’s what makes it special.
Though Crawford had professional and personal ups and downs (the later dramatized in the thriller Mommie Dearest, based on the tell-all by her allegedly abused daughter), she shines in this film, and it’s her performance that carries you to the bitter end.
Criterion Spine #860