Kate Winslet in “Mildred Pierce”

I’ve been watching the HBO mini-series based on the novel by James M. Cain. The filming is really interesting: houses, cars, clothes, dishes, and locations recreated to channel the 1920s-30s era.

Take a look at the production design slideshow at the HBO website. Glendale, California of the 1920s comes alive. Searching for reviews, I find the following:

Like Winslet’s films, Haynes’ projects tend to focus on women who are trapped in suffocating domestic situations, whether in self-help-obsessed Southern California (“Safe”) or the 1950s suburbs (“Far From Heaven”). In “Mildred Pierce,” he often makes those trappings literal by framing Winslet through a kitchen window or a half-closed door, as if challenging her to break out of her house.

Well, okay. People do feel trapped inside their own lives sometimes and art is meant to show us a little something about the human condition. But suburban domestic suffocation is not exactly ground-breaking stuff these days, is it? It’s pretty much the only way Hollywood depicts suburbia. It’s either stupid, comical and mindless, or heartbreakingly drone-like.

What I find most interesting about this particular mini-series is how it shows Mildred building up her restaurant business. Hard work, creativity, luck, a loan, and the right property all figure into the journey. Our creative class – or their reviewers – seem awfully reactionary in a way, don’t they?