Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford)would do anything to see her two daughters (Ann Blyth, Jo Anne Marlowe) happy, so when she catches her philandering husband (Bruce Bennett) in the act, she sets out to prove herself as an independent woman. With her husband's business partner (Jack Carson), Mildred creates a successful chain of diners, but a seductive ne'er-do-well investor (Zachary Scott) and her bratty older daughter soon see to the unraveling of her success. Mildred Pierce is a stark and intriguing film noir from hard boiled novelist James M. Cain and stalwart director of the time Michael Curtiz, whose name seems to be forgotten today. Crawford won her only Oscar for her whirlwind and emotional performance. She is also given wonderful support from the cast, particularly Carson as her surprisingly lecherous backer and Scott as the layabout heir. My problem with the film came with the treatment of its characters, who exceed believability even considering cinematic suspension of disbelief. Both Mildred and Veda Pierce are two of the most ludicrously conceived characters in film history, and after awhile their absurd decisions border on the laughable. Still, "Mildred Pierce" offers much to admire including its chilly noir plot and a great performance from Crawford, despite the  unreasonable nature of her character.