Top positive review
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Great depiction of social climbing and class anxiety in the 1930s
on December 4, 2016
First off, this series is visually and sonically beautiful. The clothes, the lighting, the cinematography and soundtrack, not to mention the acting, were all beautiful. My favorite shot is of Mildred talking to a teenage Vida in the car home from a funeral; just beautiful shot of reflections off the car window of overlapping trees interplaying with their faces.
On to the themes. I have to strongly disagree with the reviewer who said that Vida's dialogue sounded like it came from a book and was a script flaw. Vida's affectations are a central detail to the central theme of the film: social climbing during the Great Depression, and conflicts of class. Everything Mildred does, practically, is to nurture and shelter Vida from harsh reality. She doesn't want her to see her uniform, she wants to buy her a proper piano, etc etc. Like many parents, she wants a better life for Vida and shares in her pride against lower class work and living. But Mildred is conflicted between living through her daughter's aspirations and being prisoner to them, and being the butt of her contempt.
But Vida lives in a semi-fantasy world, very much a Hollywood thing, of being upper class. Mildred tells her to knock of the affectations a couple of times in the movie. But the artificiality of her stilted speech is a great signifier of who Vida is: a middle class kid who probably got her ideas about class from Hollywood movies, which in the 1930s had a lot of depictions of the upper class lounging in penthouses in silk gowns and tuxes. When Monty comes along, he is everything Vida wants to be, and she as well as Monty look down on Mildred for her middle-class ways. Vida's pretentious diction is an embodiment of who she is and what drives the movie: a relentless social climber (she'll even blackmail to get money). This detail resonates with me because I have known people like this who are affected social climbers who speak in an accent from nowhere; social climbers live in an interstitial zone of class and their accents are what they *think* an upper class person speaks like. It does come from books and movies, because they did not grow up upper class. I grew up with this kind of thing; my father grew up in the 1930s and does not have the accent of the rest of the family. He uses semi-british pseudo-aristo phrases like "lovely chap" even though we are from the midwest and lower middle class. I think this comes from growing up during the Great Depression, in which this film is set, and living through escapist Hollywood glamour. Even the Hollywood actors had a fake pseudo-accent that was invented for Hollywood films when sound first entered film; glamorous stars' New Yawk accents came out and they were given elocution lessons.
Speech is very much a class signifier and this film perfectly nails class aspirations and conflicts.
Oh and Kate Winslet is perfect.