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Still, Mildred Pierce is the least stilted, most normal (and not simply fake "normal") filmmaking of Haynes's career. His Mildred Pierce embraces, without subverting, not just the melodramatic contrivances of Cain's novel right down to its final what-the-fuck line of dialogue, but also the author's crazy aspiration to write a two-fisted, corn-fed, star-spangled Madame Bovary. The poignant longing for cultural refinement is something that the author shares with his protagonist. The more successful Mildred grows, the more her ungrateful daughter despises her and the more baroque their tormented relationship becomes.

Evan Rachel Wood and Kate Winslet star in HBO's Mildred Pierce.
Andrew Schwartz/HBO
Evan Rachel Wood and Kate Winslet star in HBO's Mildred Pierce.

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Directed by Todd Haynes. Written by Haynes and Jon Raymond. Based on the novel by James M. Cain. Starring Kate Winslet, Evan Rachel Wood, Guy Pearce and Brian F. O'Byrne. Airing on HBO March 27, April 3 and April 10.

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Once the sylph-like Evan Rachel Wood materializes as the grown Veda — and especially after this vixen achieves radio stardom to become a disembodied spirit of the airwaves — Winslet appears increasingly heavy, old-fashioned and vexed; the woman who knelt before the altar of free enterprise has become the priestess-victim of a new cult. A saga of unrequited star worship, terminal class envy, failed self-empowerment and self-immolating smother love, Haynes's Mildred Pierce is a nightmare as American as Mom and apple pie.

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