Olivia Wilde’s sophomore directing effort, “Don’t Worry Darling”, has arrived to theaters amongst some of the most discussed backstage turmoil on a feature film in some time. Cutting though the noise and nonsense is a difficult endeavor. The end result though is a competently made, if ultimately shallow attempt at a twisty thriller that’s neither as clever, scary, nor artistic as it purports to be. It’s a film that’s engaging enough due to its candy-colored art direction and central performance by the always captivating young star, Florence Pugh.
The casting of Harry Styles in a major Warner studio production and the subsequent “scandal” of the off screen relationship between he and his director Wilde may have generated the headlines, but it’s Pugh’s reliable focus as the movie’s star that keeps it from completely going off the rails on screen as well. She plays Alice, a housewife in what appears to be an idyllic 50s/60s styled community. She is married to Styles’ Jack and they appear smitten, basking in the glory of other young couples all participating in what is supposed to be some kind of utopia. The reality is that it’s hard to tell who exactly this facade is meant for, and what is the ultimate goal of its founder, Chris Pine’s Frank.
This recap may seem like a major spoiler, but either the film is not concerned with immediate audience suspicion, or it completely fails at an intention to hide its allegory. Either way, the movie is certainly not completely inept, as it is interesting to watch Alice navigate through the various set pieces of parties, housecleaning, and gossip sessions. As the narrative begins to unravel along with some of the movie’s characters, it also starts to wear out any patience a viewer may have had enjoying the proceedings.
Olivia Wilde hasn’t helped the situation when it comes to her own movie. In addition to the casting change controversy from Shia LaBoef to Harry Styles, and her strange fixation on calling Pugh “Miss Flo”, amid rumors of strife between the two on set, in interviews she seems to be applying thematic allegories where they don’t fit. It’s almost as if she’s describing another film when calling attention to “Don’t Worry Darling” as a showcase for “female pleasure.” Perhaps it’s simply a misinterpretation of what she intended, but this assertion for a film where women are trapped in a trope of the supposed good ole days, a direct, unsubtle lampoon of the “Make America Great Again” patriarchal vibe, is downright perplexing. Despite all the negative excitement around this movie, it’s truly surprising that a curio such as this ultimately comes off as just an obvious, if well made, kind of dud . . .
Directed By: Olivia Wilde
Written By: Katie Silberman
Running Time: 123 min.
* * (out of 4 stars) -OR- C