Mildred Pierce (Blu-ray Review)

I’ve been on a real Todd Haynes trip as of late. It seems that I have always been a fan of his work even though I haven’t seen every single film that he has ever directed. Pretty weird, huh? A couple of months ago I reviewed a documentary that featured lots of well known and not so well known filmmakers and Haynes was part of the crew. I really enjoyed what he had to say about the way he works, how he takes on these different projects, etc. I had recently just seen Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There, so when word came that his latest HBO miniseries was set to be released on Blu-ray I had to jump at the opportunity to review it. Let’s not forget that I’m Not There was released on 2007, so it’s been a while. Let us see how the transition from film to television went. Enjoy Mildred Pierce.



The Mini-Series 

It’s southern California in the early 1930’s and the Great Depression has ripped the country to its foundations, but somehow the Pierce family of Glendale, California will have to make due. Mildred Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a middle class housewife and mother of two whose husband has just left her for another woman. Okay, I lie, he’s been seeing another woman, so Mildred gave him an ultimatum and he left. She is now a “grass widow” who is left with no means to support her two young daughters. Something must be done and it’s up to Mildred Pierce to get a handle on things by any means necessary.

I find it curious when well-to-do folks in the movies live large and then lose it all and they’re left to fend for themselves. Yes, she decides that she has to get an actual job to make that money in order to support those children. It’s on this quest that Mildred uses her faculties to overcome the obstacles of the working world. Working menial jobs are not glamorous, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Mildred takes it in stride and uses it to her advantage by getting herself a job as a waitress at a fast moving diner in Hollywood. This of course must be kept a secret at all costs from her young snob of a daughter Veda, played as a child by Morgan Turner. Never have I wanted to backhand a child more in recent memory than I did with Veda. She’s a faux snob who seems to think that she is entitled to anything and everything and that her mother must get it for her at once!

There’s only so much that Mildred can do, but the fun of watching the show, at least for me, was that the show is very manic. There are a great many highs, but then reality hits you in the face, and you have to come back down to some severe lows. I loved how Mildred conquered one roadblock after another, but hated when the rug was taken from under her. Life is brutal.

Guy Pearce comes in to the picture as a rich and independent orange grower from Pasadena who sweeps Mildred off of her feet or was it the other way around? The chemistry is great between the two, but as with Veda and her attitude, all is not what it seems with Pearce’s character. Dramarama, yo!

Mildred Pierce takes place within a ten year time frame, so we do see Veda grow up into Evan Rachel Wood, the uber bitch. Seriously, you thought young Veda was a peach, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Veda  grows up to be an aspiring pianist, but only has the skill and not the talent to go with it, so she blames her mother for that fault, while trying to get work outside of the music business. She begins to dabble in acting and other things until she finds her true voice. Literally.

What really sets the tone of the show, and boils my blood while being extremely entertaining, is that Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce are pretty great actors. They embody these characters as if they lived right here, right now. It’s the attitudes of some, namely Veda, who anger me, the viewer. Evil is evil no matter how hot it looks like. Mildred does everything she can to try and keep her family above water only to get a slap in the face by the ungrateful. She plows through, but then she has the problem of staying complacent once good things happen. That’s my biggest compliant about Mildred. When things are bad, they’re horrible, but then she figures it out, but gets to comfortable for her own good, she’s back to square one. This happens on multiple occasions. Veda’s character is also like that, but she’s a tad more consistent. Once a snake, always a snake.

I have a great fascination with all things classic Los Angeles. The look, the feel, the general aesthetics of a great city. No, I am not biased, but I do call it my home, so it speaks to me more than the average non-Angelino. Going into the miniseries I didn’t really have any inkling on what it was going to be about. All I knew was that it starred Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce. I also knew that it was Todd Hayne’s newest project. I will say that if you take on the task of watching Mildred Pierce you will be in for an emotionally satisfying experience.


Mildred Pierce is presented in 1080p, 1.78:1. Shot on 16mm to give it that old school charm – I was really surprised at how great the image looked. I felt like I was there in the 1930’s. I thought it was 35mm, but this transition over to the Blu-ray is pretty spot on. Colors are bold and beautiful when they need to be, but can quickly change to cold and drab when the scene calls for it. Softness is the biggest issue with the transfer, but I suspect that it’s an obvious aesthetic choice. It fits the time period nicely. Contrast levels are rarely ever boosted and black levels remain deep and inky. There is no print damage to be found which makes for a great viewing experience on Blu-ray.


Mildred Pierce is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Yes, this is a period piece, so don’t expect the usual boom boom bang bang sounds of the 1930’s genre pictures. Mildred Pierce is a drama and a mighty fine sounding one at that. Dialogue is king here and all of it comes through that center channel crystal clear. Music and ambient effects are handled quite well by the front speakers and the rear channels. One thing I did notice, or for lack of a better word, didn’t notice, was the lack of a LFE channel presence. I have a powered subwoofer that turns off automatically when there is no LFE found, but turns back on automatically when it picks up the signal again. I noticed that throughout most of the show’s running time that the LFE channel never activated. It’s no big deal, because Mildred Pierce is not the type of material that will suffer with no subwoofer presence, but it should be cleared up anyway. It’s pretty much a 5.0 soundtrack. Okay, I’m over it. 😉

Special Features 

Mildred Pierce contains a very small bounty of extras, and no, the inclusion of the miniseries on standard DVD does not count. We have a couple of commentary tracks that feature Haynes with his co-writer, and production designer. They are very entertaining and I can listen to Haynes talk about film forever. Dude is a true auteur. There’s a detailed half hour featurette that focuses on the production elements of the film; it’s no fluff. Lastly, there’s a short segment that features Todd Haynes talking about each episode in a bit of detail. These run about 5 minutes each.

  • Commentary on select episodes by Writer-Director Todd Haynes, Co-Writer Jon Hammond, and Production Designer Mark Friedberg
  • The Making of Mildred Pierce
  • “Inside the Episode” conversation with Todd Haynes

Final Thoughts 

Mildred Pierce is not a boring piece of material at all. It’s a fascinating look at a time period that was shrouded in darkness due to the economic climate that also features some pretty headstrong characters along with some nasty ones. I will say that Mildred Pierce is one of Todd Haynes more mainstream efforts, so if you’ve never seen one of his films then Mildred Pierce would be the place to start. It’s much more accessible, in my opinion. Please Todd, I do not want to wait another five years for your next project! 🙂




Order Mildred Pierce on Blu-ray!


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “Mildred Pierce (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    This sounds interesting!