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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mildred Pierce, a Los Angeles housewife, is unhappily married to Bert,
a man that has been cheating on her. They are always fighting about his
philandering. Bert decides it is about time for him to leave the
present situation. Bert has no problem leaving Mildred behind. The
marriage produced two girls, Veda and Ray.
As the story opens, Mildred is putting the finishing touches to a cake she has been commissioned to make for a neighbor. The country is living a deep depression. Mildred must account for every penny she has because times are tough. She must decide to go to work, a difficult choice since the positions she aims for are hard to come by, as the woman at the employment agency makes it clear.
One day Mildred receives a phone call from the agency. There is a position that might suit Mildred. It is a job as the housekeeper of Mrs. Forrester, a rich woman. Mildred is humiliated by the treatment she receives from the butler, who directs her to the servant's entry door. The irritating Mrs. Forrester turns Mildred off. She runs away without accepting the job.
Lucy Gessler, her savvy neighbor, talks sense into Mildred. She points out without any special skills, she has no chance to get employment that will help her put food on the table. The opportunity arises one day as Mildred is walking the streets and sees an ad for a waitress in a sort of diner downtown. The job is much more than what she thought it would be. She is afraid her eldest daughter, Veda, will find out of what she is doing.
Veda is a girl living in a world of her own, turning her nose to anything she considers below her. Part of the blame for Veda's behavior is the way Mildred has brought her up, making her believe she is above everyone around her. Ray, on the other hand, is an adorable child with no hangups.
Wally Burgan, an associate of Bert Pierce, comes to Mildred after his partner has gone to his paramour. Bert sees an opportunity to hit on a vulnerable Mildred, who is now alone. In spite of what her common sense advises her, she goes to bed with the man, something that will ultimate benefit her because of Wally's business sense.
James Cain's novel has been carefully adapted by Todd Haynes, a man that has a keen eye for depicting another bygone era for the movies. His collaborators include Jon and Jonathan Raymond. The idea of a making a series out of the material has paid off royally. It is amazing that several New York locations have served fro the Los Angeles of the 1930s.
The casting of Kate Winslet as Mildred proves to be an excellent idea. Ms. Winslet makes an impression in the title role. She is surrounded by an amazing group of performers that make watching the series fun to watch, notably Melissa Leo, who as Lucy Gessler brings balance to the action. Brian O'Byrne, Morgan Turner and James LeGros stand out among the supporting players.
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