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

If you’re undecided about whether to have kids, help is on the way. This Sunday, HBO premieres Parts 1 and 2 of its five-part original miniseries Mildred Pierce, starring Kate Winslet. Motherhood has never looked so grim.

Here’s the story, in brief, to refresh your memory. In 1931, Mildred is a woman determined to give her daughters Veda and Ray everything they want and need in life, despite the fact that her husband’s once thriving business has tanked and he is unemployed and unfaithful. Oldest daughter Veda is a snob, furious when her mom kicks her dad out of the house and takes a job as a waitress. As the 10-year story progresses, Mildred achieves success in her career and has affairs with several men. Meanwhile, Veda becomes a selfish monster and Mildred’s obsession with trying to win her over is the sad heart of the story.

Winslet and Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Veda in her late teens, talked to HBO about the mother/daughter relationship.

What a delightful daughter.

Director Todd Haynes read James M. Cain’s novel several years ago and was taken with how Mildred’s plight mirrors much of what is going on today. Since the Pierce family was wealthy before the market crash, he believes their struggle is closer to ours than most stories set in the Depression.

Executive producer Christine Vachon (an out lesbian) agrees. “[The novel] felt unbelievably relevant. A young woman has to figure out how to support her family against all odds.”

Too bad one of the odds against her is her daughter.

A few overall comments and then we’ll get into specifics. Spoilers ahead, so stop now if you wish to remain spoiler free. (You might want to avoid the HBO promotions, too, since they give away a bit too much of the story.)

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