“Don’t Worry Darling” (US Rated R)
Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Kiki Layne, Gemma Chan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Where to watch: In Theaters
Dwight’s Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
You’ve probably heard more about the behind-the-scenes drama of the new film “Don’t Worry Darling” than about any aspect of the movie’s plot.
For months – years now, actually – the shenanigans of the cast have been fodder for the media – from traditional to tabloids to social media gossip.
From Shia LaBeouf being fired allegedly for his onset behavior, to Director/Actress Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart”) meeting his replacement, British singer/actor Harry Styles, on the set and beginning their intensely-followed romance (just after splitting from a long-term relationship with Emmy-winner Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”), to reports of on-set squabbling and shouting-matches, and then certain cast-members refusing to promote the film, and claims that certain people aren’t talking to certain other people, and to the now infamous #SpitGate debate and debacle.
With all of that, the making of “Don’t Worry Darling” sounds like it would be a truly amazing movie itself.
But perhaps it’s for the best that those other issues have dominated the discourse, as the plot is going to seem awfully familiar to many other movies, especially in the sci-fi genre.
There’s a definite M. Night Shyamalan/Jordan Peele-feel to the whole production. But it’s definitely not a horror. It’s a mystery and a thriller.
And I can’t say much more without spoiling it entirely. But if you’ve seen “The Stepford Wives”, especially the less-comedic original film from 1972 (and not the 2004 version), you may wonder if this is a new-age remake.
In the 1950s, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Styles) live in the idealized community of Victory, an experimental company town that houses the men who work on a top-secret project. While the husbands toil away, the wives get to enjoy the beauty, luxury and debauchery of their seemingly perfect paradise. However, when cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something sinister lurking below the surface, Alice can’t help but question exactly what she’s doing in Victory.
“Don’t Worry Darling” is both fascinating and frustrating, but certainly more of the former than the latter. It is very well acted and put together. Visually, it is simply stunning, as if it were the most spectacular technicolor masterpiece of the same 1950s-era it’s emulating. The bright and shiny midcentury homes and cars and fashions are a sight to behold.
But of course, as we begin to delve deeper into this perfect-looking life, that shiny veneer begins to get murky.
Guiding us through the perplexing scenarios, we have Oscar-nominated Pugh (“Little Women”) in almost every scene. And thank goodness! Yes, her character is extremely confused too. But going along with her for the journey makes it all worthwhile.
You can’t take your eyes off her. When she’s experiencing joy, or when she’s in extreme despair, you feel every bit of what she’s going through. It’s magical. It’s a truly spellbinding performance. She’s good enough to recommend watching “Don’t Worry Darling”, if only for her. If you didn’t know who Pugh was before, you’ll never forget her now.
But will you remember “Don’t Worry Darling” in five or 10 years after watching it? That remains to be seen.
It’s not because of the rest of the cast. Chris Pine (“Star Trek” and “Hell or High Water”) is also decent in a very mysterious role. And Harry Styles is not bad at all. Wilde directs herself in a significant supporting role, and the character is quite interesting.
But “Don’t Worry Darling” will likely gradually become a bit more challenging for some viewers to stomach once it finally becomes clearer what this film is really all about. (Hint: if you had deep philosophical issues with the feminist notions of last week’s “The Woman King”, well perhaps you’d do better to stay home and watch actual movies from the 1950s – or, even better, go back in time!).
And for those folks, and some others, who may feel the movie starts off with a bang, and ends up like a deflated balloon that noisily frittered about all over the air before quietly settling down slowly onto the ground, sure, it can be argued that the ending isn’t quite as big and satisfying as some might have hoped for.
But that doesn’t take away from the entertainment value, and the uncanny way it makes you mentally run through a thousand different scenarios as to what the heck could possibly be going on here. So, I liked it!
But I can’t deny I might like even more to watch “Behind Don’t Worry Darling”, with this exact same cast playing themselves in the making of a movie that can’t entirely live up to the even-juicier off-screen drama.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.