Review | ‘Don’t Worry Darling’: Trouble in a ‘Twilight Zone’-adjacent paradise

(1.5 stars)

The advance publicity for “Don’t Worry Darling” has been so constant — from director Olivia Wilde’s on-location relationship with her leading man, Harry Styles, to her kabuki-like feud with her lead actress, Florence Pugh, and Something about Chris Pine and Styles at the recent Venice Film Festival — that it’s easy to forget there’s an actual movie at the center of it all. A film that isn’t a disaster, but isn’t particularly distinguished either. A film that would eventually become as forgettable as its own weird hype.

‘Don’t worry darling,’ we’ll break down all the drama for you.

“Don’t Worry Darling” opens at a party in the elegantly appointed living room of a 1950s track home, where Alice Chambers (Pugh) and her husband, Jack (Stiles), have their neighbors’ copious amounts of alcohol, cigarettes and Having fun with them. Slinky dancing set to Ray Charles’ “Nighttime Is the Right Time.” The setting is the anonymous inner-city community of Victory, California, where Jack and his friends go to work every morning for a top-secret project producing “progressive content.” Their boss, and the man behind the real estate development, is a charismatic alpha male named Frank (Pine), whose radio sermons Alice and the rest of the Victorious Homemakers listen to while they cook, clean, and make perfect ice-cold martinis. make The moment they are ready, their better halves arrive home.

It’s all mid-century perfection, an idea wildly driven home with zero subtlety, between an aggressively dated soundtrack and candy-colored production design that leans heavily toward the era’s bright and shiny relevance. But all is not well in Unpleasantville, a self-contained bubble where Alice works on a trolley with foreboding signs like “What you see here, what you do here, what you say here, Leave it here.” He is haunted by strange visions of planes crashing and Busby Berkeley dancers circling like eyeballs. At one of Frank’s parties, he gives a motivational speech about progress, chaos and changing the world – less JFK than Jim Jones.

Alice is a looking glass in the form of the mystery “Don’t Worry Darling,” written by Katie Silberman, Carrie Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke, who take clear cues from such vintage classics as “The Stepford Wives” along with dashes of “Seconds” here and “The Parallax View” there. More contemporary analogues include “Separation” and “get out“Both of which recall Rod Serling’s wonderfully quirky and approachable style. “Don’t Worry Darling” teases provocative ideas about gender roles and expectations but never reaches Serling’s heights of suspense and social commentary. Wilde’s direction, meanwhile, manages to be simultaneously warm and pedestrian, resorting to blunt literalisms in moments that call for Hitchcockian mastery.

Wilde was about to cast herself as Alice. Instead, she plays Bunny, a drunken true believer with knowing eyes and sparkling mannerisms. (Kate Berlant does her best to spice up the proceedings with deadpan humor as the very pregnant Peg.) Fortunately, Wilde sees a horror movie.MidsomerAnd he decided to cast Pugh in a role in which, with the help of natural charisma and vanity-free naturalism, she makes a poor and extremely tedious film worth watching from a distance. (For his part, Styles is unimpressive but obnoxious, even when Wilde makes him dance like a puppet for no discernible reason.)

“Don’t Be Very Darling” takes a turn that feels like a convenient and wasted opportunity. Maybe there are some good ideas here about ambition and ambivalence, desire and self-delusion. But they turned out to be as vague as tumbleweed blown across the suburbs by a Santa Ana wind.

R in area theaters. Contains sexuality, violence and strong language. 122 minutes.

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