Blu-ray Review: ‘Mildred Pierce: The Collector’s Edition’

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CHICAGO – I must admit that I am of the school that thinks that “Mildred Pierce” is one of the best things that has ever played on television. It is art of the highest caliber, featuring one of the best performances in the history of the form and were it eligible it would have been in my top ten films of 2011. It’s that good. And the “Collector’s Edition” of the award-winning series lives up to that title, marking the first time that HBO has ever released a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack and weighing the production down with special features. It’s the first must-own of 2012. Blu-ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

James M. Cain delivered a novel in “Mildred Pierce” that Hollywood had no idea what to do with. He was known for noir like “The Postman Always Ring Twice” and so when he produced an incredibly complex tale of class, money, power, sexuality, and parenthood, they totally screwed it up. They added a murder to the story, changed the structure, and cut out most of what mattered about Cain’s book, winning an Oscar for Joan Crawford in the process but not really standing the test of time as a movie anyone watches in 2011.

Mildred Pierce
Mildred Pierce
Photo credit: HBO

This version has SO little in common with the Crawford movie. It is much closer to the source material although filtered through Todd Haynes’ unbelievable skill level. There’s also an undeniable connection from the depression of 1931 to the today’s workers battling to stay even middle class. HBO’s “Mildred Pierce” is a challenging, complex work with devastating emotional beats but nowhere near the level of melodrama that fans of the original might expect.

Mildred Pierce
Mildred Pierce
Photo credit: HBO

“Mildred Pierce” is long and will only work for those who can commit to it, but it’s also detailed, deliberate, and devastating. We get to know Mildred and the important people in her life with long takes, most of it scored to the amazing compositions of Carter Burwell (“True Grit,” “No Country For Old Men”), and it makes the powerful moments resonate by the time taken instead of rushing from plot point to plot point. Do we need to see Mildred baking pies or staring out a window longingly? No. But it’s the moments like these that give the piece depth and weight that it wouldn’t otherwise have. I wouldn’t cut a single scene of “Mildred Pierce.” And some of my favorite moments are ones that other filmmakers would never have even considered shooting.

Everything about “Mildred Pierce” is effective. I could go on and on, and it’s definitely worth noting that Evan Rachel Wood and Guy Pearce do stellar work here but the piece belongs to Emmy winner Kate Winslet. She gives a mesmerizing performance. Her work here is simply incredible. She will win a Golden Globe this weekend and if the film had been released theatrically she would win another Oscar. No DOUBT. It’s a master class in the art of acting that stands as one of the best performances in a very long time — film or TV. The scenes between Winslet and Wood on the final night are absolutely breathtaking.

There is very little about which I can write this — I can say NOTHING negative about “Mildred Pierce.” It is a perfect mini-series. And the Blu-ray transfer is typically HBO-strong. The release also includes commentaries and production featurettes for those willing to commit even more time to this incredible venture.

Having it all would cost her everything. But for Mildred Pierce (Oscar winner Kate Winslet) success was worth the price. As a struggling single mother in Depression-era Los Angeles, Mildred is determined to fulfill the demands of her eldest daughter Veda (Evan Rachel Wood), surpassing societal expectations and the betrayal of lovers along the way. In this acclaimed 5-part miniseries, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Todd Haynes transforms the original James M. Cain novel into an epic movie event.

Special Features:
o Audio Commentaries with Todd Haynes, Jon Raymond, Mark Friedberg on parts 3 and 5
o Inside the episode pieces for parts 1-5
o The Making of Mildred Pierce
o Previews (Parts 1-5)

“Mildred Pierce” stars Kate Winslet, Evan Rachel Wood, Guy Pearce, Brian F. O’Byrne, James LeGros, Hope Davis, Melissa Leo, and Morgan Turner. It was written by Todd Haynes & Jon Raymond and directed by Haynes. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 3rd, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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