Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mildred Pierce Part One, Part Two: First Impressions

I don’t pay the closest attentions to the mini-series and movie events that often occur on cable television. It’s hard enough finding time to get through the mire of films released a year without the addition of more. Still, the option of not seeing Todd Hayne’s adaptation of the novel Mildred Pierce was not even an option. The Joan Crawford one appears in my top 100 films, but all for richer adaptations of novel which is what makes the television format such a perfect home to novels of significant size.
It’s odd, but the first name in the credits that stood out for me was Ann Roth as the costume designer. Roth’s name doesn’t emerge as often as Sandy Powell or Colleen Atwood, or even Jenny Beavan but she is an Oscar winning designer and I couldn’t help but notice over the span of the first two episodes how costumes emerge as a significant part of characterisation.

I love, for example this first dress we see Melissa Leo in. The garishness of its brightness in an odd way seems to augment the simplicity and practicality of it; clothes are more than important for taking us from period to period it’s almost as if that costume transforms Melissa Leo who’s so excellent here. And Leo is quite good here. Her Lucy overflows with a sincerity which makes even her occasional lack of finesse (in light of her staunch level-headedness) strangely appealing. She is an actor with control over voice, but it’s her fluidity of expressions which wins me over here – consistently more sincere than her work in The Fighter.
That sense of sincerity is evident throughout the entire two hours, Haynes is a slow director – not in a negative sense, but he lets everything ruminate before he leaves it. He loves to have his camera travel – almost sensuously, at times – over the surroundings. And the cohesiveness if excellent.

Here again, the costumes jump out at me. It’s the style of Mildred juxtaposed with the normalcy of the waitress that emerges first, but the choice of brownness by Roth makes her seem so pallid, almost unobtrusive. Admittedly, in Part Two there are those odd moments of excess where the movement seems especially dawdling – but I can’t ever say of Haynes that he doesn’t have a purpose to his technique.
And good grief – this thing is brilliantly casted.
Assessing the Performers (thus far)
Kate Winslet: A (highlight in Episode 1)
Melissa Leo: B+ (highlight in Episode 1)
Mare Winngingham: B+ (highlight in Episode 2)
Morgan Turner: B/B+ (highlight in Episode 2)
Brian F. O’Byrne: B/B+ (highlight in Episode 2)
James LeGros: B (highlight in Episode 2)
Quinn McLoglan: B (highlight in Episode 2)
Guy Pearce: B
Have you been following the mini-series?


Jess said...

I can't wait to see this, but I'll have to wait for HBO to put it on DVD. Showtime seems to get my money for TV these days with Dexter, Weeds, The Tudors and the upcoming Borgias.

Robert said...

Gah, I'm abstaining from watching this because I want to read the book and see the Joan Crawford movie first. But reading reactions like yours make me feel like perhaps I should change my mind...haha

Jose said...

Leo is so freaking good here! I hope when she wins the Emmy she is less nuts than she was during Oscar season though.