HBO’s “Mildred Pierce” returns to its literary roots

Wood’s Veda is cold and calculating, devoid of any flashes of innocence and joy. She even uses her considerable musical talent to manipulate others to do her bidding. Associated Press asked Wood to talk about playing Veda.

The final two parts are pretty bleak, as Mildred’s steamy relationship with Monty (Guy Pearce) fizzles and flames and fizzles again, and she finally gets fed up with Veda and kicks her out of the house. Mildred is a wreck without Veda, but their “reconciliation” in the final hour leads to a denouement that was too scandalous for the 1945 version. It is, in fact, why the murder was added to the first Mildred Pierce — to give the story a different frame. I admit, I was a bit jarred myself — but Wood nails the scene. Let’s leave it at that.

Since AfterEllen.com has had fun speculating about the Kate/Evan kiss scene, I won’t ruin it except to say that it is not the least bit incestuous. And since much has been made of Winslet as Wood’s nudity coach and merkin consultant, I have to say that Wood’s nude scene was not only essential to the story, it was also a fine piece of, um, acting. (Sorry.) Seriously, the accolades Wood deserves for that scene have nothing to do with how gorgeous she is.

And yes, Winslet is nude, too — frequently, in fact. And she, too, is gorgeous.

Is Mildred Pierce a must-see? I’d say yes. At times, it seems too long, but I don’t know what Haynes could have cut out without compromising the story’s impact. And I watched the entire series (around five and one-half hours) in one sitting, so that may have contributed to the occasional sense of tedium.

Besides, next Spring’s television awards shows are going to be dominated by HBO’s Mildred Pierce and you will want to know why. You may not feel uplifted when the credits roll, but I think you’ll feel that watching the series was time well spent.

Do you plan to watch Mildred Pierce when Part 1 airs Sunday, March 27?

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