Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mildred Pierce (1945)

Joan Crawford stars in a rags-to-riches tale of a woman whose obsessive love for her daughter leads to her downfall.

Crawford plays Mildred Pierce a woman who is taken into questioning about the murder of her second husband. What unfolds is a series of flashbacks that tells us what brought Mildred to this point in her life, starting out as a married woman who divorces her husband who then has to work in order to support her two daughters. When one daughter dies, Mildred becomes obsessed with her eldest daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) and making her happy devoting her time and new found money from the opening of her own restauraunt to pleasing her spoiled, horrible daughter, leading to a tragic conclusion.

The cast in the film is uniformly good, with Joan Crawford creating a character that we root for, pity, and sometimes want to slap for being so dumb. She's an everywoman who is able to use her skills of observation and intelligence to seize opportunities and use them to further herself and her daughters. Crawford won the Oscar for this role, and it's hard to argue that she didn't deserve it. She creates a strong, intelligent character, but pulls no punches when it comes to her love of Veda, showing it as unhealthy and obsessive.

Ann Blyth also deserves a mention for going completely and totally into making a nasty, horrible character. Veda is spoiled, selfish, and manipulative, using her mother's resources for her own gain, and Blyth doesn't even attempt to make her likable, which is a great feat she was a teenager when she made the film, so be so into the character that sympathy goes right out the window.

The choice of making the film primarily consist of flashbacks works to great effect. Much like A Woman's Face it allows for our perceptions of the characters to shift and change as we see what occured in their past as well as offering various twists as to who actually committed the murder, even though it eventually becomes pretty obvious by the end.

The film is an interesting entry into the film noir genre, considering it focuses on a woman and her rise and fall, in addition to the flashback nature of the film and it's lack of a real "villain", but it's a great film nonetheless. While Joan Crawford has deliver better performances before, she shines in a role that allows for complexity and depth.

It's definately worth watching.

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