DAWN, Rose McGowan’s directorial debut, is a coming-of-age film about the perils of coming of age as a young woman.
Set in the 1950s, we meet the titular Dawn (Tara Lynne Barr), a cute teenager with a penchant for ponytails. The opening scene takes place in Dawn’s family car, where Dawn’s mother is giving her advice for dealing with the fellas. She tells her teenage daughter, “There are certain things a lady can’t ignore when it comes to pleasing a man.” From the opening scene, we known our heroine has been taught that it is her job to give men pleasure.
Of course, let’s not blame mother alone. I hate mother-blame, and the film actually does take pains to show mom’s not the only one giving Dawn the message that her role in life is to make men happy. When she picks up a magazine, it gives Dawn the similar advice, admonishing her that boys don’t like girls who get “sore” at them when they change plans.
Soon, Dawn has the chance to put all of this advice about how to perform her femininity into practice. Her opportunity to apply society’s lessons in pleasing a man comes when she meets hunky gas station attendant Charlie (Reiley McClendon). In no time at all, Charlie starts pursuing Dawn with enthusiasm. Shortly thereafter, Dawn’s begins hanging out with him and his group of naughty friends. Charlie and his crew are definitely not as concerned as Dawn is about following their parents’ rules. As such, they convince Dawn to disobey her mom and dad by sneaking out of the house.
Ultimately, Dawn gets embroiled in a creepy situation. This is a film that illustrates how a world that teaches young woman to please men instead of doing what makes them comfortable is a dysfunctional and dangerous place indeed. It’s a good message, and one I was surprised the film was able to convey so clearly in a quarter of an hour.
All in all, I thought McGowan’s directorial debut was interesting. The film’s aesthetic is beautifully evocative of the setting, suburban 1950s family life. The dresses, shoes and set design somehow manage to evoke an interesting mix of nostalgia, while seeming creepy in retrospect. After all, once the film ends, you will no longer be left with any romantic delusions the 50s were a simpler – or a safer – time.
The acting, for a film that lasts about 15 minutes, was also surprisingly impactful, with Tara Lynne Barr giving us a particularly haunting portrayal of a young woman who just wants boys to like her. Not only that, but our leading man, the handsome Reiley McClendon, is someone we will no doubt be seeing much more of. Without giving away any juicy details, let me just say that McClendon’s range in the few minutes he is on screen is nothing short of revelatory.
So, I do recommend seeking out McGowan’s DAWN. It takes less time to watch than an episode of New Girl, but I guarantee you will get more out of it. Sadly, the 1950s world McGowan shows may be full of cute vintage dresses, but otherwise it does not look so different from our own.
DAWN will debut June 21 only on YouTube.