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Critics reviews
Mildred Pierce
Michael Curtiz United States, 1945
If Crawford is the glue in this picture—a mosaic of uneven elements, from the undue intensity of Blyth’s young villainess to the almost-too-brilliant comical asides from McQueen to the queer allure of Zachary Scott’s Monte—Curtiz would then be its assembler, the artiste taking pre-existing elements . . . and piecing them together into something that appears cohesive.
June 29, 2018
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An acute, unsparing study of relationships poisoned by class and money. The plot reveals a cruel sting in the tail of the most essential American promise—that hard work, sacrifice, and self-improvement will find their ultimate reward in the next generation’s success. But these caustic insights are embedded in a movie as satisfying as the comfort food Mildred serves in her neon-lit upscale diners: the dialogue salted with wit, the decadently rich emotion cut by just enough acerbic tartness.
February 20, 2017
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The film revels in Crawford’s virtuosic escalation of emotion, in the force of will that she allows Mildred, who correspondingly transcends the masochistic constructs of a typical martyr of a “woman’s picture.” Mildred is a lusty, resilient, calculating, commanding woman—a protagonist of hungry agency who can’t be resolved to neatly serve a political talking point. Crawford’s brilliance is on particular display in the classic scene between Mildred and Veda on the staircase in Mildred’s home.
February 20, 2017
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Crawford and her foil, obnoxious, coquettish daughter Veda (Ann Blyth), create a perfectly executed melodrama. Amid a whodunit, the death of a young child and a philandering husband, Crawford’s Pierce encapsulates the timeless balance of perseverance and desperation that so harrowingly affects the division between classes—even today.
May 25, 2016
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Not unusually for a review I wrote eleven years ago, while I was still a college student, I would rephrase and even rescind a lot of the comments in this review. Until I have time to post a new review, though, I’ll fess up to this older one. I’d currently grade the movie at a B–, ceding more credit to Curtiz’s resourceful direction, though I still think this one has been gifted with a reputation way in excess of its merits.
February 01, 2010
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It’s Curtiz’s darkest and saddest film; Crawford at its heart is grim, victimized, self-pitying, monumental. She seems to be in some dream of her own career. The performance, only half-aware of what it is revealing, is a triumph of the will, doubtless.
January 01, 1990
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In the deepest sense, Mildred is selfish-living out her own dreams of material glory vicariously, through her pampered daughters. Mildred Pierce makes a shrill, melodramatic, but still pertinent criticism of this American compulsion by showing that the spoiled child is a moral monster, deadened by greed and unaffected by murder. What the film seems to say is that the obsessions of materialistic, success-oriented parents lead to violence and corruption; the fruit of ambition is murder.
January 01, 1990
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The archetypal Joan Crawford movie, with Joan as a housewife turned waitress who finds success in business but only anguish with her bitchy daughter (Ann Blyth) as the two of them compete for the affections of smoothy Zachary Scott. Crawford won her Oscar for this 1945 film under the workmanlike direction of Michael Curtiz, greatest of the contract directors. Good support from Jack Carson, Eve Arden, and Bruce Bennett.
January 01, 1980
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Nasty, gratifying version of the James Cain novel about suburban grass-widowhood and the power of the native passion for money and all that money can buy. Attempt made to sell Mildred as noble when she is merely idiotic or at best pathetic; but constant, virulent, lambent attention to money and its effects, and more authentic suggestions of sex than one hopes to see in American films.
October 13, 1945