This morning my husband wore a cardigan, and I made him breakfast. After watching 'Don't Worry Darling', I felt like a '50's housewife. I'm always one to reject gender roles, but here I am playing them out. I cook, he mechanics. Me woman, he man. I only can cope with this because he'd be more than happy if I got in the shed with him and got dirty, and not by draping myself over the hood of the Land Rover in a miniskirt, but by wielding a spanner.
'Don't Worry Darling' explores the desire of men who are searching for a utopia where they are at the centre of society, worshipped as provider and provided for in terms of sex, food, housework and adoration - a '50's dream we have tried our best to leave behind. The opening scenes describe this squeaky clean world in pastel detail against a white desert sky. Wives beg their husbands to stay home and make love but the men must go to do Important Work, and leap into beautiful old cars as the wives stand on perfectly manicured lawns with ironed dresses and wave, smiling, then go back to housework - wiping windows with newspaper, scrubbing tiles, cooking - or gossip by the pool. In this village, everyone is blissed out happy. All they have to do is follow a few rules - stay in the boundaries of the town, and support each other. It's all very oppressive and conformist with the bright veneer of American consumerism.
In this way, it's quite Stepford Wives or Truman show and could be criticised for rehashing old tropes in this vein. Still, I'd forgive it for this and found it quite watchable.
Frank, the town's founder, creator and leader, is worshipped as a visionary. His podcast style recordings play as the female lead cleans, a kind of guru-talk that promises happiness. They all fawn over his favours, and happily follow his rules for the idyll they count themselves lucky to luxuriate in.
However, cracks soon begin to appear - the main female lead, Florence Pugh, starts to question when her best friend walks out into the desert with her son and returns without him, distraught and uncompliant and 'hysterical', as woman are usually seen when they resist in this way. When she witnesses her slice her own throat and fall from a rooftop, she cannot bear it any longer, and begins to seek answers in an increasingly controlling, claustrophic atmosphere. Where actually is she and why is she here? Why are all their backstories so similiar? Where do the men go to work, and what do they actually do? Why can't she leave, and what is that building in the desert?
All the while, her reality is disrupted by flashbacks and strange dream sequences that are gradually replaced by the truth of why they are there. The viewer is certainly suspect immediately - I mean, no woman spends her time happily cleaning windows and the bathtub every day and it's totally unrealistic to believe a marriage would invovle the husband coming home to go down on them after they've cooked dinner.
Whilst the reviews were mixed, I really liked it. Some argue the reviews weren't great due to social media slagging it before hand and some drama or another between the actors.
The film explores what it means to be happy and how some men believe that being in a powerful provider role whilst the woman are at home creates that kind of perfect happiness. Yet it's not that simple - the film also seems to touch upon, albeit briefly, why that might be, when men might not have a purpose and be promised a better life by someone with all the answers.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ - 4/5 Stars Probably explores gender roles better than Barbie.
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