Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
My first Joan Crawford film! She's quite good. The film very much feels like the adaptation that it is in that it is more of a succession of events than a coherent story, with characters going through huge events and undergoing massive changes in a matter of minutes. We rarely get the time to sit with the characters (aside from Mildred herself), which proves especially problematic with Mildred's older daughter. There's a lot to unpack there, and the film doesn't let the character breathe enough for the developments around her to really work. It leaves a lot on the performers' shoulders, which works well with Jack Carson and Eve Arden, who play their characters big (and entertaining), less so for Ann Blyth as Mildred's daughter, Bruce Bennett as her first husband and, to a lesser extent, Zachary Scott.
Having not read the source material or seen the Todd Haynes miniseries (which I'm curious about now), I didn't know the noir structure of a flashback and a bit of a murder mystery was the film's invention, but I found it worked pretty well: now it looks like a genre mashup, but weren't noir just called melodramas at the time ?
The other problem I have here is one that goes with the period, and that's the ending. I'm guessing it's a Hayes Code thing, but it undermines the whole film and especially Crawford's performance as Mildred so badly that you can't just overlook it: it's there in the film, and it's pretty terrible.
Actress (Joan Crawford)
Supporting Actor (Jack Carson)