Sunday, July 03, 2011

Joan Crawford, in Mildred Pierce
approximately 84 minutes and 36 seconds
77.5% of the film

The film

After her husband leaves her, Mildred Pierce proves she can become independent and successful, but can't win the approval of her spoiled daughter.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

Mildred Pierce feels like a classic noir film, but it still has a couple of problems with the screenplay. It starts great, it ends up nicely, but there’s too much of a rushed storytelling in the middle and doesn’t take full advantage of possible, richer directions.

Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce

How many years did it take for Joan to get her first nomination? Too many, as she had been a movie star ever since the 30s. And she won: partly because some felt it was her time, partly because there was thin competition and mostly because even today it feels like a worthy winner. It’s arguably Joan’s most beloved performance and you don’t see that very often: actors winning for their most outstanding career achievement.

Joan plays Milded Pierce, a woman left by her husband, having to take care of their daughters during economic downturn. She tries to please her daughter Veda by giving the girls a better life: she opens a restaurant, becomes a successful business-woman, gets involved with a sneaky man and just can’t seem to win her evil daughter’s affection. It all ends with a murder. It’s a dramatically rich role about a very determined woman.

The performance is technically irresistible. It’s generally agreed that few actresses had the control over a performance like Joan Crawford had. If you’ve seen some videos/interviews on her acting, they always underline what a pro she was, always knowing where the camera is, when to show tears and so on. And all those assets are perfectly coordinated here: she’s always in control of her scenes in a manner that would seem robotic, except that it’s fabulous because Joan is so damn talented.

She makes it look easy and natural and along the way she also manages to bring emotion to her flawless acting skills. Actually, those emotional scenes are my favorite: the introduction of her character, for example, with the suicide attempt, is PERFECTLY played and set: her gorgeous face, the light, the fur coat and most of all her eyes filled with tears. The slapping scenes are also classics, because Joan is wonderful at playing “vulnerable with dignity” and win the sympathy of the audience.

It’s not a performance that holds a lot of secrets & surprises, because Joan is very good throughout; that’s no reason to blame, but it’s worth mentioning. One thing I didn’t like and it stood out in the film, was the way the screenplay treated the death of Kay and how Joan didn’t do a bit more to grab all the potential of that scene. It was all like: the kid died, one or two tears and now we’re ready to move on. I don’t think that was in the spirit of the character, considering how much Mildred loved those girls. I would’ve expected her to be completely devastated. It’s probably the director’s fault, but Joan should’ve pushed for us to see something that what was more believable for her character.

Joan Crawford gives a remarkable performance, that I probably respect more than I love. I wouldn’t feel completely comfortable in giving more than a but it’s a very strong one. When the camera’s on her in a big, emotional scene there’s perfection that’s hard to match. However, in the regular scenes, she’s her usual great, maybe not with enough surprises or a bit too technical in her acting skills. It’s a very strong performance anyway.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I love the movie, and Joan in it, although I don't really like her generally. I agree with you that she's smashing in the opening. I always find that she's the type of actor who works effectively without lines.

Fritz said...

I like her and I think she is entertaining but she doesn't really convince me that she's a great actress with this performance.

Alex in Movieland said...

Andrew, you're right. Her still moments were the greatest. And she does get an awful lot of close-ups; thankfully. :)

Fritz, you're so tough on the lady :P

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful review (and your screen grabs are beautiful)!!!
Love this movie, and Joan in it but it pales next to Humoresque, Joan's greatest performance and in some ways the greatest film I've ever seen. Rob
P.S. I've always felt the same way about Kay's death--too rushed, or something!

Alex in Movieland said...


I took the stills myself and this time there were SO many to choose from. as I said, the camera adores her. Anyway, the cinematography is quite great all around. :)

which Rob are you? any blog? :) how did you find me? (out of curiosity)

Rob said...

Hi Alex! I found your spot by following classic movie links until I ended up here. Sometimes I comment on various sites without using my google account because I never want anyone to feel obliged to "friend" me or my site because I like their work. The blog I run is called I'm Not Patty and it's mostly about Joan Crawford, but there's a lot of other stuff (newer movies, books, music, and personal crap as well), only I work so much I can rarely attend to it!
Sorry for such a long explanation--anyway, I like your reviews: you're a very good writer!