Dont Worry Darling's famous Venice film festival press conference aired: "It feels like a... film." Styles said the film "emotional," and not for the first, or the last, time during Dont Worry Darling's cursed press tour.
Dont Worry Darling, a film directed by Olivia Wilde and starring Florence Pugh, is a must-see viewing experience. It's packed with famous people in elegant clothes, with a little bit of sex, a little bit of mystery, and a little bit of action. It's a bold, brassy, high-concept studio thriller that's rare these days.
The cyclone of gossip that has preceded its release sounds like part of the story, or at least consistent with it: a decadent, glossy tableau of turn-of-the-millennium celebrity culture. But, happily, we can leave all mention of the scandal there, even if it doesn't show up in the finished product, which is fine, if not well thought out.
Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles) are a besotted young couple living in a modular, midcentury suburban paradise shaded by tall palm trees. What they do there is a closely guarded secret; the project's leader is a charismatic figure called Frank (Pine), a cultish figure who speaks only in bland, nonspecific aphorisms about their common cause and utopian lifestyle.
Alice navigates this existence in a savage haze, savoring Jack's attentions at home, drinking wine with her sardonic neighbor Bunny (Wilde), and dancing with the other women under the cool gaze of Frank's wife, Shelley (Gemma Chan). She cant help but notice flaws in the facade of this perfect world: a disturbed wife in the house next door, an empty eggshell, and a plane disappearing from the sky
The Woman King, a charming, hyper-real, rather sour psychological thriller by Wildes, is a strong, likable, conscientiously sweet teen comedy Booksmart, who likes to go big, and who has a lot of time for shades of gray. It's a rare pleasure to see a female filmmaker working in this populist register, which also is undergoing a theatrical release.
Wildes willingness to go for the jugular served her better in a ribald comedy than in a film working in an ambiguous, mystery-box state. Some of them are original and disturbing: empty eggs, a repeating Groundhog Day motif of sizzling bacon and coffee being poured, and a Marilyn Monroe-like cavorting in a gigantic cocktail glass. None of them are subtle.
Alice draws closer to the truth about what is happening to the Victory wives. Nothing is as it appears, yet, to an even mildly movie-literate audience, everything appears to be as it appears. Even if you dont know the exact nature of the Shyamalan-esque twist in the narrative, you'll get a feel for its contours long before it arrives.
Maybe there's a clear honesty to this, even if its just a deserved rage. After all, if you're asking what keeps women bound to an unfulfilling fantasy of becalmed domesticity, or what force constrains their personhood, it's really no mystery at all. Perhaps pretending otherwise for the sake of a satisfying twist would be its own form of embarrassment. But if that's the case, then a high-concept mystery thriller would certainly be
The final act of the film is a mess of illogic, irresolution, and half-formed ideas. The filmmakers pull back the curtain and point the finger, but they can't seem to get the attention or bothered to explain themselves and to deal with the consequences. (Dont Worry Darling has all the hallmarks of being overdeveloped.)
The actor who is left hanging by the films' failure is not Pugh, but Styles. He isnt the catastrophe some gleefully predicted, but he looks quite dashing; in Victory, the women arent the only ones being manipulated; but he deflates tragically; under Harry Styles of all of it, there is nothing left.
Alice may be just as a cipher on the page, but Pugh's rooted physicality and her fiery, mischievous, stubborn sense of existence are more real than imagined. She will not be denied, and she guides Dont Worry Darling to the finish line with great determination.
Pugh's performance is enough to warrant a look at this shiny, smooth-finished film that feels like a movie. The film's visual design, soundtrack, and cinematography are all exquisite, blending crooning doo-wop and ambient jazz with John Powell's unsettling, nervy music. The film's emotional hook is, nevertheless, unmistakable.
Dont Worry Darling will premiere in cinemas on September 23.