By Kevin B. Lee
[Editor's Note: This is the latest entry in House contributor Kevin B. Lee's Shooting Down Pictures, a record of his ongoing quest to see every title on the list of the 1000 Greatest Films compiled by They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?]
Joseph Mankiewicz' wittily scripted, innovatively structured survey of distaff marital life at the brink of the Eisenhower era pits three middle class wives against an impossible feminine ideal. Addie Ross, the omniscient, goddess-like narrator who opens the film with withering remarks about the lives of the desperate housewives she calls friends, is as much of a structuring absence as Citizen Kane's Rosebud. She's never seen, only talked about as some otherworldly feminine ideal who inspires men and terrorizes women. It's her letter to the three wives, announcing that she's run off with one of their husbands, that sets off a chain of collective flashback introspection; the wives are so awestruck that their response is to ruminate in their domestic failures rather than kick some adulterous ass. She's a gimmick, but one that aptly grounds Mankiewicz's suburban landscape as a projection screen of insecurities. Even domestic sounds like a ferry horn or a dripping faucet set loose vexing thoughts about infidelity and emptiness among the three wives.
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