So much behind-the-scenes drama, so little on-screen satisfaction.
Running time: 122 minutes. Rated R (Sexuality, violent content and language.) In theaters September 23.
Director Olivia Wilde’s mediocre suspense film Don’t Worry Darling has been plagued by nasty rumors since it premiered in Venice earlier this month.
Readers devoured the news that her amazing star Florence Pugh really hates Wilde and co-star Harry Styles, who is a couple; that Wilde misled the public as to why scandalous actor Shia LaBeouf left the project; and that Styles may have given Chris Pine a loogie.
What fun! Too bad all this chaos was way more entertaining than the movie that caused it.
Darling is a garbage pizza of other better movies and TV shows: The Stepford Wives, The Twilight Zone, Get Out, Black Mirror, Pleasantville, The Truman Show, The Village. ” and on and on. A full blown sci-fire sale.
What it lacks – and all these memorable works lack – is an overwhelming shock that challenges everything we thought we knew. An M. Night Shyamalan twist, if you will. With Wilde’s film, we’re a mile ahead of the action from minute one, with 121 to go.
“Darling” is set in a peaceful desert enclave that looks like Palm Springs (because that’s where it was filmed). There are beautiful mid-century modern homes and swimming pools. All the cars, clothes and record players look straight out of the 1950s. But – and this is problem #1 – we can immediately say that we are not in the 1950s.
Alice (Pugh) is a devoted housewife who lives with husband Jack (Styles). Every morning she looks flawless as she cooks him bacon and eggs and waves goodbye as he drives to work at the mysterious Victory Project, where he and the town’s men make “progressive materials.” Nobody knows what that really means. You could make nukes, paper straws, or AOC booklets.
Home alone, Alice lives a hangover-free life of free-flowing cocktails, constant sex, ribeye steak for lunch, dance classes, late-night parties, and zero humidity. Please sign me up for this dystopian nightmare.
One fateful day, after venturing beyond the confines of the city’s strict rules, Alice witnesses something at the Victory Project’s mountain HG that we viewers are not privy to, wakes up at home and becomes paranoid again about their creepy community, which is named by an almighty leader named Frank (pine, fine).
What Wilde and writers Katie Silberman, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke are doing – not unwisely – is to fit modern social movements into the old formula. That’s great. But there’s not much more to it than that men are bad.
Pugh, a sensational actress, keeps our interest as she grows increasingly suspicious and sees disturbing visions in mirrors and on windows. She brings class and gravitas to a film that would otherwise be kind of trashy.
As her seemingly nice husband, Styles is decent. Right now, the pop star is better at playing a charming romantic lead than broken, unpredictable, and angry. Nevertheless, he fits well into this idealized world. Surely many people’s dream life would be to be married to Harry Styles.
And Wilde, who stormed into the director’s chair for the first time with Booksmart, gives Darling an appealing visual appeal and story pace at a comfortable pace — though we’re yearning for more style, camp, and extremes to bring to this odd place to dive in
The director is also very good in the supporting role of Bunny, a fun-loving neighbor with a secret.
The stated goal at the beginning of each episode of The Twilight Zone was to take viewers on a “journey into a wondrous land of imagination.” Not quite up to the task, “Don’t Worry Darling” takes us to an AirBnb in Palm Springs with the “Watermelon Sugar” singer.