MILDRED PIERCE (2011)

(DVD/HBO MAX) I love Curtiz’s adaptation of James M. Cain’s MILDRED PIERCE — he certainly knew how to work the material to fit Joan Crawford — but it’s Todd Haynes’ (CAROL, FAR FROM HEAVEN) version that is truer to Cain’s novel. Yes, most of Cain’s works are lurid and pulpy crime tales, sensational enough to be banned, but MILDRED PIERCE is the exception. Cain paints a detailed portrait of a difficult mother with an even more difficult daughter, both of whom get wrapped up with a exploitative cad. It’s an epic character piece that deserves every minute of the approximately six hours that Haynes gives it.

Haynes enlists Kate Winslet who plays the role with a muted air — not quite the hysterical, over-protective mother that Crawford portrayed — while Evan Rachel Wood brats it up as her daughter, and Guy Pearce gleefully tears into inhabiting a genuine shitheel playboy. As you’d expect from Haynes, the cinematography is lush, the production design department spared not one piece of patterned wallpaper, and everyone’s stitched to the nines.

Most importantly, Haynes knows how to let scenes breath. Cameras track contemplatively, gazes wander, and characters sit with themselves, processing the ramifications of their actions. While it may not be as fondly recalled as the initial adaptation, or even any of Haynes’ prior works, it’s a mini-series that merits the extra time.