(Ep.4) Let’s re-cap: Mildred Pierce is a grass widow (ie no present husband) in the sun-drenched California Depression. She has three men, two daughters and a chicken shack on the go. She also has a pair of loyal girlypals who, unlike the others, are constant in both friendship and number.
You see the menfolk are currently down to two, Wally and ex-husband Bert, because The Man Who Was Del Monty – who pressed all, and I mean all, of her buttons – Mildred dumped on a dark and stormy night. She’s a daughter down as well, the grippe officially (that’s flu don’t yoo knoo) but it could have been because there were chickens in need of a wholesome nosh during the run-up to Mildred opening her first restaurant. This last soon bucks the unlucky streak because it’s “going gangbusters” and there are now two, soon to be three outlets. It’s at this third where we find our Ms Pierce this week …
The new joint’s way out in Laguna, a place I know little of other than it’s where you catch tuna; and that only through one of my desert island discs, the gloriously escapist Let’s get away from it all. Mildred’s found a rather spiffy seafront spot and she’s going to let best friend Lucy live there and run it with a share of the profits thrown in. Ida, the pal she met in the LA branch of Bettys Tea Rooms is already running Chicken Biz II in Beverly Hills. Lucy is so overwhelmed by the kindness she invents “Surf & Turf,” having decided that big city rich people aren’t going to nip out to the beach for chicken.
Right now, a chap is reluctant to leave this rare interlude of sun, sea and smiles – so relentlessly downbeat is the rest of the episode – so let’s linger awhile on Melissa Leo who plays Lucy. She won this year’s Oscar for best supporting actress as Mark Wahlberg’s mother in The Fighter. In that she was entirely believable as trailer trash who’d apparently been re-housed on account of giving birth to a limitless flock of harpies plus Marky Mark and his crack-addict bro. If I hadn’t been swotting up onIMDB, I’d be yet to recognise her in Mildred Pierce such is the contrast in characters.
Oh well, back into Gloomworld. Episode four boils down to this: remaining daughter, Mad Veda, is all growed up (it’s now 1937) and, as tends to be the way with those who are rotten to a corruptful core, is beautiful, being a flame haired temptress played by Evan Rachel Wood. Thank God she’s not talented – wouldn’t that just be the living end? When Veda’s piano teacher dies, Mildred carts her off to successful conductor, Carl Treviso (Ronald Guttman) for an audition. We know he’s successful because it’s all long wavy hair and italian accent plus tuning noises going on in the background. We know Veda’s got no talent because he slams down the piano lid with no thought to her fingers.
All of which detonates Veda’s first atomic strop of the week, this time a whole five minutes in. As usual it’s all Mildred’s fault. Also laid at darling doormat Mildred’s door is the blame for Veda’s blackmailing scam to suck “the old dough re mi” out of a rich couple who don’t want any old scarlet venom marrying their son. She’s faked a pregnancy: “I certainly was most indiscreet … but after the big whoopdidoo their attitude changed.” This poison seeps through the hour and makes it tough viewing. It also has you pleading with Mildred to Mum Up and tell Veda where to get off which, eventually, she does by chucking her out (just). And that’s about it really. Our only comfort regarding Veda is that, as mentioned, she’s blessedly bereft of ability and will surely die in bitter ugliness and poverty after years of messin’ with the lives of others.
But wait, what’s this? Oh no, it can’t be a Snack-o-ham sponsored radio “event” with Carlo Treviso conducting the LA Philharmonic Orchestra and featuring soprano sensation, Veda Pierce. It flaming well is though. Just three weeks after losing her grip following an unfortunate piano accident, we’re told L’Oreal’s most crimson creation, Violent Elizabeth Bott, possesses pipes from heaven.
Or hell. Mad Veda’s either got the Tonsils of Dorian Gray or LIFE*IS*SIMPLY*NOT*FAIR.
Next week: Del Monty’s back and Mildred fails to balance the books.
Posted by Corumba Love