Selling a movie as “nothing is what it seems” is a very common sales pitch. The notion of mystery will always be intriguing to audiences, but this only works if the movie you have is actually well…surprising. The obvious can’t be sugar coated with fancy dresses, shiny cars and a sex scene or two featuring a famous pop star. DON’T WORRY DARLING, Olivia Wilde’s sophomore film is a plethora of things (none of them good) but one thing it most certainly is not is surprising. Have you seen the trailer? That’s nice then you have also seen the movie. This is not meant in a “they showed the whole movie in the trailer” thing (although they also do that) but rather any feelings you may get that something is off and deeper secret lies below is correct and ends right there. This critic wouldn’t dare spoil anything for their readers, but they will give you this advice, don’t over think it. If it seems all too familiar and uneventful, well it is because it is. Now plot twists, reveals etc. they don’t have to make or break a film but when your director and screenwriters (Katie Silberman, Carey and Shane Van Dyke) are so hellbent on making the movie all about the “wow” moment it is almost hysterical when it instead falls flat on its face. DON’T WORRY DARLING is not just a mashup of better films it is a film with such little care that you wonder where the director was the entire time. A film with such little focus you can feel the producers press autopilot. If you were worried before, trust me you had every right to be.

Life doesn’t seem so bad for Alice (Florence Pugh) when we first meet her. A smoky 1950’s dinner party involves her and some girl friends Bunny and Peg (Olivia Wilde and Kat Berlant) trying to balance drinks on their heads as they impress their onlooking husbands cheering them on. Alice’s husband Jack (Harry Styles) embraces her after she looses the game. It’s all fun to him and it is clear that this couple never stops embracing one another. Even when the two go for a drive that involves their Cadillac doing donuts in the desert they can’t stop touching one another. They are young, happy, horny and blissful. Part of their happiness also comes from being able to live on the outskirts of the world in a commune known as Victory. Here all the men work for Frank (a terribly miscast Chris Pine) who runs the Victory Program where the men leave every day and return late at night after a long day of working on “progressive materials.” This is all the women are told and most of them are satisfied with their housewife routine of cleaning, making dinner, gossiping with martinis by the pool and eventually welcoming their husband home whereas in Alice’s case means also having her husband go down on her at the dinner table. Wilde’s attempt at making this a film about female pleasure starts and stops with Alice receiving oral from her husband. When things build up later any trace of this is left in the dust and the small inkling remaining is actually proven to be anything but pleasure.

Instead of pleasure Alice’s life is quickly met with confusion. She begins to have strange nightmares and hallucinations during the day. You can tell they are hallucinations thanks to Affonso Goncalves’ dreadful quick cut editing (seriously flashing an image in your face doesn’t suffice talented editing). Alice’s questioning of what is really happening in Victory is heightened when a neighbor Margaret (Kiki Layne given nothing to do) takes her own life. Layne is just one of the many actors who are quickly establishing a big name for themselves but are just tossed to the side in favor of Wilde’s own character Bunny. Even if you ignore the fact that Margaret is one of the only women of color in the film (which you shouldn’t) her character is just here to service the entire story, play the victim and never be given any sort of resolution let alone respect. But it is Margaret’s demise and the clear coverup involving the town’s doctor (Timothy Simmons) and her husband that makes Alice truly believe something is wrong. I wish I could say there is more to the mystery (or even the film), but that is about it. Alice questions the town, Frank and her husband shut her up. Rinse, lather, repeat. Wilde’s directing has no intentions on doing anything but tedious build up for 100 of its 120 minute runtime. Instead we are given melodramatic dialogue delivered by one of the year’s worst performances from Styles. As Jack, Styles has zero charm (disregarding what his die hard fans may think) and it is an embarrassment for both him and the audience to go toe to toe with Florence Pugh. Pugh has who has made a name for herself faster than she spun around in Midsommar’s maypole scene is not at her best here, but when your lines involve saying the same thing over and over with the occasional lip quiver it is hard to do any better. DARLING’s script chooses flash over substance in terms of giving Pugh anything remotely intriguing to say. When she questions her role as a woman serving her husband and the town it all falls between too little or way too much. Pugh an expert at finding the middle area, the one Styles can never find, falls short of everything she has proven before.

DON’T WORRY DARLING has one trick up its sleeve and that is avoiding being dumped onto streaming services. Here is a movie that was practically made to trend and be riddled with TikTok trends and memes. With its big name cast and major studio backing it was never going to be left for dead on HBO MAX or sold off to Netflix, and it will probably even make a big buck, but it is as forgettable as any Netflix original involving teen heartthrobs. Maybe there was a good movie here somewhere and maybe Booksmart was not just a one hit wonder for Wilde, but here is a director that like her lead character needs to wake up and come back to reality because sleeping at the wheel just causes everyone to crash.



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