Mildred Pierce: Meeting the man who is Del Monte

(Series 1, Ep.2)  When you review a production as strong as ‘Mildred Pierce’ it can be difficult to take the mickey. Okay, so the pace is more stately than Chatsworth House, a valid comparison were Chatsworth on castors; but the writing is faultless. You have to go back to the source text (James M Cain’s 1941 novel) to load up with raspberries. And since the more ludicrous elements of his story don’t show up until the later stages, you’re left with precious little at which to thumb a nose in episode 2 of what I hope will be a fruity five hours.

So where were we? Well, if you caught the very end of last week’s episode you’ll have seen the camera pan to the back of Veda’s head as she eavesdropped on Mildred’s shower scene with her friend Lucy (which, I need not remind you, was not what you think). Remember Veda (Morgan Turner)? She’s the annoying older daughter who needs a good kicking (my intent kicked in early this time).

Estranged husband and father Bert pops in for some quality time with his daughters and, as kids are, Veda’s like: “So Father, what’s your opinion on the current economic conditions?” It seems that Bert knows about this sort of thing, which is good. In our house, when my lot made such an enquiry, it was so that they could yawn dramatically or call me an idiot. Generally they did both; still do in fact.

Veda’s also been nosing around her mother’s closet (shows how evil she is: no normal child ever does that) and has discovered whisky (it’s the Prohibition, remember) and a waitress’s uniform; this latter turns up later on.

As Bert leaves, Mildred gets a touch assertive and has the car keys off him. Apparently relenting, she offers him a lift home and gets to ask: “Are you staying with Maggie?” That’s Mrs Beiderhoff, by the way, the Other Woman. Poor old Bert is a tautology of crumpling defiance: “I prefer not to say where I’m staying. I’m staying where I’m staying … you can drop me off at Maggie’s.”

Now you may remember that Mildred took a job in the Beverly Hills branch of Betty’s Tea Rooms and was set to become The Worst Waitress in the World. Evah!!! But no, she’s been practising after school and can now carry three dishes before panic sets in. Ida (Mare Winningham), her boss at Betty’s, is a “pal” and promises to run with the idea of Mildred baking all the pies. They take off (not literally, otherwise they’d be soufflés) and Mildred uses the extra dough (hah!) to get some home help: Letty, whom Veda forces to wear the waitress gear. She’s trying to humiliate her mother because she, Mildred, is going out to work. Oh the shame.  

I think it’s safe to say that the mother/daughter relationship is not entirely healthy: spankings and creepy make-up hugs abound. Still, this makes Mildred decide to open her own restaurant, so it’s not all bad.

Later, after a bout of doing the-not-particularly-wild thing with Wally Burgan, Mildred reveals her business plans. If I have this right it’s about serving chicken – and only chicken, because everybody likes chicken. Never work in a million years, I say. It turns out Wally’s got a wizard wheeze that involves a Barratt show home – do Barratt build Haciendas? – and a tax dodge. The bonus for Wally is that it means Mildred’s going to have to ask Bert for a D*I*V*O*R*C*E. Golly, if I wasn’t an idiot I could explain all this. Upshot is that Mildred gets her poultry joint for nothing.

Meanwhile it’s instant chemistry with the coffee back at Betty’s: Mrs Pierce, meet Mr Pearce. Guy specifies breakfast and before you can say: “over easy,” it’s knickers off in a Santa Barbara beach hut. There’ll be more on Guy Pearce’s character, Monty Beragon, next week. Suffice to say he’s big in oranges which means he’s the man who actually is Del Monte. Del Full Monte, I’d say, if Mildred’s beach hut abandon is anything to go by.

Good things don’t happen to Mildred, however, so when she gets back from her tryst she finds that her sunny younger daughter, Ray (Quinn McColgan) is in the hospital. I didn’t catch which one but I’m going to call it St James because there are lots of doctors, even more nurses & only one patient.* Being St James, they can’t even keep that one alive; so no more cuteness or cupcakes for Ray and lots of tripping the guilt fantastic for her mum.

* Obligatory PLA reference for Holby City fans.

Next week: Monty plays polo and Mildred goes to the chicken farm after a funeral.

Posted by Corumba Love

3 Comments

Filed under Drama

3 responses to “Mildred Pierce: Meeting the man who is Del Monte

  1. I’m still resisting the temptation to look this film up on IMDB as I’m enjoying the gradual unfolding of the plot, but I’m slightly unnerved by the anticipation of the “ludicrous elements” to which you allude, Cazza. I hope it doesn’t get TOO silly, as I’m really enjoying both the characterisations and the photography at the moment. I also hope something seriously bad happens to that nasty daughter, dead siblings regardless. Slipper on the bottom? I’d have pushed her down the stairs. Mildred, though, seems to ‘admire her spirit’. Maybe it’s just a British thing, but I’d prefer to see the s*** kicked out of her. Good review, anyway.

    • Corumba Love

      Why thank you ma’am

      With regard to ‘ludicrous,’ don’t worry: the things that happen are perfectly believable within Mildred’s world. It doesn’t mean they’re not far-fetched but they fit the story (apart from one plot device which stretches credibility on timescale but, crucially, not character).

      One of the story tenets I hold dear is that no matter how outlandish the universe you create and populate, you can get away with anything provided that everything remains true to its/his/her own logic.

      The best example I can think of is the Toy Story trilogy; there’s a massive suspension of disbelief required for adults but that’s achieved seconds after the start of the first film. From then on it’s a world you enjoy inhabiting and nothing knocks you out of that life during the running time. On the other hand, how many films or programmes have you seen where you’ve been kicked out of the story momentarily and found yourself back in your seat thinking “that wouldn’t happen” or “he wouldn’t do that” ?

      Keeping the seams from showing isn’t easy which is why only self contained series or tightly scripted films usually manage it. There are exceptions but Holby (again) as a sausage factory prog most definitely does not, with the least of its offences being what PLA calls ‘character swerves.’ Doesn’t stop it being enjoyable on a different level though.

  2. “Thank you ma’am?” I don’t know WHAT I’ve said to intimate to you that I’m a woman, and you may or may not be right (tautology alert), but believe me, I can wear my suspenders of disbelief for as long as the next man. Thank you for your reassurance on this matter; I shall continue to watch with confidence in 10 deniers.

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