Director: Olivia Wilde
Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, Olivia Wilde
Runtime: 2 hrs 2 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)
Released By: Warner Bros
Opening Day: 22 September 2022
Synopsis: A 1950's housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company may be hiding disturbing secrets. An audacious, twisted and visually stunning psychological thriller, "Don't Worry Darling" is a powerhouse feature from director Olivia Wilde that boasts intoxicating performances from Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, surrounded by an impressive and pitch-perfect cast that includes Chris Pine and Gemma Chan.
Admit it, you want to watch this movie because of the off screen drama. Thanks to the Internet, you have read how director Olivia Wilde embarked on a romantic relationship with the movie’s leading man Harry Styles, who just happens to be one of the most popular pop singers around. Then there’s the tale of Shia LeBeouf, who was the original male lead in the movie, but was let go by Wilde – according to her. That prompted the troubled celebrity to announce that it was his own decision to leave the production.
Things get better (or worse, if you’re on the movie’s marketing team). Female lead Florence Pugh makes her absence felt during the publicity tours of the movie – is anyone surprised there is reported tension between her and Wilde on set? At the Venice Film Festival where the movie made its premiere, Pugh didn’t attend the press conference but showed up (stylishly, of course) at the red carpet event. The Internet made things even juicier with memes of supporting male star Chris Pine zoning out during the press conference. And the tabloid world was sent into a frenzy with a slow motion video of Styles supposedly spitting on Pine during the movie’s screening (Pine’s rep clarified that the rumour is not true).
With all the bad press (some believe that any form of publicity is better off than having no publicity at all), does anyone still care that the movie does have an intriguing plot that is supposedly a stinging statement about female subjugation and empowerment?
Pugh plays Alice, a 1950s housewife who lives in a perfect looking community known as Victory. Together with her husband Jack (Styles trying his best to take on a serious acting role), they live the picture perfect life. The men in town go off to work in the morning, while the women do chores (happily!) at home. In the evening, people gather to have fun parties and everyone looks gorgeous.
It doesn’t take a fool to know that something is wrong here. As Alice begins having scary hallucinations and a fellow housewife commits suicide after some very bizarre events, things begin unraveling and it seems that there is a darker force driving Victory. There is Frank (Pine), the sinister boss of the company where the men worked, his cold but oh so pretty wife (Gemma Chan), the supposedly caring neighbour (Wilde) and her husband (Nick Kroll) – who exactly are these people and what evil plans are they hatching?
Pugh gives it her all (or she may be just one of those actresses who excels in every role she is given), and her performance gives a contemporary touch to the chilling performances we’ve seen in The Stepford Wives (2004). She is fearless and makes audiences believe that she is a woman who wants to break free of whatever trouble she has gotten into. The 26 year old English actress has a bright future in showbiz.
Wilde said that the story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke and Katie Silberman is inspired by great films like Inception (2010), The Matrix (1999), and The Truman Show (1998). The way we see it, Wilde’s second work after the critically acclaimed Booksmart (2019) is a superficial approach of incorporating the sophisticated storytelling from the abovementioned titles.
The cinematography by Matthew Libatique is lavishly striking (Libatique is known for working on many of Darren Aronofsky’s films, and there are sequences that remind us of the terrifying Black Swan), and every shot is lovely to see on the big screen. But that does bit help with the half baked storytelling that leaves viewers unsatisfied. And that is such a waste, darling.
(The movie is beautiful to look at, but it's barely a superficial message about female subjugation and empowerment. But everyone loves the off-screen drama, darling!)
Review by John Li