Is it true that there’s no such thing as bad press? I’d like to think so but someone like Dr. Oz might disagree. He can’t seem to get any good press these days (and rightly so). I wonder what filmmaker-actress Olivia Wilde would say. Her new film, DON’T WORRY DARLING, received heaps of bad press even before it premiered earlier this month at the Venice Film Festival. It started when she and her star Shia LaBeouf parted ways in the production’s early days. She says she let him go (a nice way of saying that he was fired); he says he quit. Then came word that Wilde was having a dalliance with her new star, Harry Styles — this after she was very publicly served legal papers from her partner of many years, Jason Sudeikis. What’s a girl to do? But the bad press continued on at Venice. Her film’s co-star, Florence Pugh, seemingly avoided making eye contact with Wilde at the press conference and, at the premiere, Pugh, who should have been standing next to Wilde, was off to the side. Days later, Pugh blew off the film’s New York premiere . Finally, there was “spit-gate” where Styles appeared to spit on his co-star, Chris Pine. He didn’t but that didn’t stop the Internet from going crazy over the possibility that he did. Now that I’ve seen the film, I have to wonder if somehow all this bad press was engineered to get people talking about the film. If so, then there really is no such thing as bad press.
DON’T WORRY DARLING tells the story of Alice Chambers (Pugh, BLACK WIDOW; LITTLE WOMEN), a 1950s housewife who lives with her husband, Jack (Styles, DUNKIRK), is the idyllically pastel-hued desert community of Victory, California. Jack, like all the men there, works for the Victory Project, a organization run by the enigmatic Frank (Pine, WONDER WOMAN 1984). Jack is an engineer but all Alice and all the other women of Victory know, for that matter, is that the men are involved in something top secret. During the day, Alice busies herself keeping their home spotless, keeping herself looking trim and sexy, and making sure there’s a delicious, hot meal and a cold, stiff drink waiting for Jack when he gets home in the evening. On weekends, the couple party hearty with their neighbours on their tony cul de sac, which includes Alice’s next door neighbour and best friend, Bunny (Wilde). But Alice starts coming to the realization that something’s not right with this perfect life when she witnesses a tragedy involving another neighbour. This sets her on a course to uncover what’s really going on in Victory.
Based on a story by Carey and Shane Van Dyke (Dick’s grandsons), and written for the screen by Katie Silberman (BOOKSMART), DON’T WORRY DARLING is a bit of a cross between THE STEPFORD WIVES, THE TRUMAN SHOW, INCEPTION, THE MATRIX and TV’s DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES with shades of an episode from TV’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Unfortunately, it’s not as smart or witty, or as tightly written as any of those and audiences are left wondering what all the fuss was all about. The story is littered with plot holes, unexplained events, developments that don’t go anywhere, props that are clearly visible but aren’t used, and repetitive Busby Berkeley-esque imagery (yeah, yeah, we got it the first time). It’s not long before you’ll find yourself throwing in the towel and completely losing interest in the outcome.
For her part, Pugh gives it her all, going from obedient housewife to badass rebel but she’s sadly let down by Styles’ lackluster performance and Wilde’s muddled direction. Styles needs to stick to his music career and Wilde may just have been lucky with her breakout first film, BOOKSMART. Just because you want to do a car chase scene doesn’t mean you should do a car chase scene. Even the impressive production and set design are no match for a story that’s neither as intelligent as it thinks it is nor as prescient as it needs to be.
DON’T WORRY DARLING is playing in Hong Kong’s cinemas now. Read THE STEPFORD WIVES instead.
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