‘Don’t Worry Darling’ isn’t as good as all the off-screen drama surrounding it

September 24, 2022 10:04 am

[Source: CNN]

The waves of off-screen drama and gossip surrounding “Don’t Worry Darling” has put director Olivia Wilde’s second movie in an awkward spot, unable to justify the hype (it’s at best OK) but probably well advised to cash in on it. Florence Pugh makes the strongest case for seeing the film, but given how in-demand she is, if you miss this one, don’t worry.

The darkly mysterious concept represents a marked departure from Wilde’s impressive debut with “Booksmart,” a small coming-of-age movie that hit all the right notes. Given a chance to step up in class, the actor turned director has assembled a topnotch cast, but in a story that teases the buildup a bit too long and doesn’t pay it off very neatly; indeed, the ending becomes what the movie’s driving force speaks of endeavoring to avoid – namely, chaos.

Owing a spiritual debt to “The Stepford Wives” with its carefully manicured image of suburbia, there are plenty of more recent points of comparison as well, such as the George Clooney-directed “Suburbicon.” There’s even a dollop of “Edward Scissorhands” in the pastel vision of a perfect cul de sac where the menfolk drive single file to work while their wives dutifully wave goodbye.

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Alice (Pugh) and her husband Jack (Harry Styles) appear to be living the dream, partying hard with his coworkers in the 1950s-style planned community where they all live. The two are insanely hot for each other, almost sickeningly so to hear Alice’s pal Bunny (played by Wilde) tell it.

Looking closer, though, it all seems a little too perfect, and thus suspicious, beginning with the fact that nobody will explain what exactly it is they do working for something called the Victory Project. There’s also a cult-like devotion to the boss, Frank (Chris Pine, like Pugh, a cut above the material), who gets his charges to enthusiastically embrace that they’re “changing the world.”