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Don’t Worry Darling

**
2022

‘…giving your moody sci-fi a title that sounds more like a Doris Day comedy is just the first of many issues here…’

Sigh. From one of the most anticipated films of the year to one of the most reviled, Olivia Wilde’s follow up to her fun directorial debut Booksmart is a moody sci-fi drama about a woman who is married to Harry Styles and yet somehow unsatisfied with her lot. Styles is a highly recognisable pop star known for his work with boy-band One Direction and popular solo work, and casting him in a role abruptly vacated by Shia LaBeoef completely upsets an apple-cart that, on this evidence, was teetering badly in the first place.

Making a female-centred version of Get Out isn’t such a bad idea, not least because Jordan Peele’s film already owed a considerable debt to Ira Levin’s fembot horror The Stepford Wives. So we return once again to the dystopian suburban well, as Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh) and her husband Jack (Styles) find themselves in the mysterious desert community of Victory, somewhere in California in the 50’s based on the cars, clothes and jazzy social signifiers. Alice dreams the dreams of the everyday housewife, cracking eggs with no yolks and fantasising about suffocating herself with cling-film, but Jack’s promotion within the sinister Victory organisation puts her on a collision course with his saturnine boss, played with little energy or enthusiasm by a wooden Chris Pine.

Real or not, Pine and Styles’ spitting feud at the Venice Film Festival is a much more marketable element that the lame satire of the patriarchy offered here; there is a punch-line where the true nature of Victory is revealed, but it’s such weak sauce that it’s a flat let-down. Other than that, Don’t Worry Darling is all style and no substance; Wilde and writer Katie Silberman absolutely should take on the hot-button notion of male control over women if they want, but to fashion it as a woozy love-letter to suburbia exhausts patience; the inclusion of a cringe-worthy and thematic sore-thumb striptease routine from Dita Von Teese doesn’t help much either.

But what Don’t Worry Darling is likely to be remembered for is a genuine casting disaster; word on Styles’ performance in My Policeman, due out later this year, is pretty awful, but it’ll be hard for him to do worse that his contribution here. Styles has style and charisma to burn as a performer, but casting him in a fairly thankless support role distracts and casts him in an unfortunate, unsparing light. Styles is lucky to have time on his side in terms of figuring out his next move, but on this evidence, it’s unlikely to be the acting realm. In Wilde’s film, he’s just one of a number of undercooked ingredients; giving your moody sci-fi a title that sounds more like a Doris Day comedy is just the first of many issues here….

Thanks to Warner Brothers UK for big screen access to this title. Don’t Worry Darling is out in the UK and US on Sept 23 2022.

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  1. I was disappointed with this one. It is an interesting premise, but Harry Styles didn’t seem to fit the role well. It was also kind of boring sometimes. Florence Pugh was good, but I just couldn’t get into it.

    • I am planning on having another look on home viewing, but I’d agree with pretty much everything that you say. Styles was in the wrong movie, but despite Pugh’s best effort, it was just a Twilight Zone without a punchline.

  2. I was really hoping for something better in terms of the film’s twist … it really felt like such a waste, given all the effort put into obscuring the film’s mystery and slowly spoon-feeding it to us.

    I am still on the side that if anything, Marvel will put Styles’ acting career on the map. It was clear that he was hopelessly out of Pugh’s league in this film, though I can hardly fault him given the strange material and behind-the-scenes drama. I do think he can work in less demanding roles — this wasn’t a great fit for him as his first major one.

    • Agreed on both counts; the ‘twist’ was such weak sauce I thought it was just a passing dream sequence. And maybe Marvel will be a better fit for Styles; third banana roles in soppy, half-cooked Twlight Zones rips are hardly the place for a young man to shine…

  3. That’s an interesting perspective but it’s otherwise called scene-stealing. I felt Pugh toppled it too much the other way, not enough stealth in her performance. will certianly be interesting to see if Styles can build a movie career. I have to say I’m so out of touch with all things pop that I had hardly any idea who he was.

    • He’s arguably the most recognisable pop star of today. He’s got something, and something a lot of people want to see, but it really worked against the energy of this film. Coming on the back of his single lasting 15 weeks at the top of the US hit parade, they got great audiences for Friday night, but a rapid drop-off because audiences didn’t got what they wanted. It’s all foreshadow and little conflict.

  4. I understand all the negative comments but the bulk of the audience will never have heard of The Stepford Wives so this might come over as fresher than you think. I agree the under-story is awful but I do think, based on my experience at the cinema, that critics have got it wrong about Styles.

    • I get that many people are wild about Harry, and he’s got presence and charisma; but there’s a reason that this movie is dropping in the box office every single day since release; the audience is front-loaded with Styles fans, who dodn’t get to see him to good advantage. He absolutely topples this film over, and it’s casting problem rather than anything Styles does or doesn’t do.

  5. I so wanted this to be good. The short, well-edited trailer is good. Yet, it sounds from all the gossip reports they should have just filmed all the action going on behind the cameras and released that. Sad. I too don’t know if Florence will be a legit star or not. As for Anna Kendrick, I think she’s a good actress. Not great, but good.

    • Be careful of the Jennifer Aniston/Anna Kendrick debate going on here, there’s radical opinions being expressed.

      I liked the trailer for this, young cast, fresh look, promise of some kind of sci-fi punchline. But it’s all build-up and no swing; I really felt I knew less after I’d seen it than when I saw the trailer. Lower expectations, and maybe there’s a cult movie in there, but a wide audience drawn by Styles are going to hate the fact the story comes to nothing…

  6. I think this will be a nope from me. Pugh has a goodly amount of stuff coming up so she’ll bounce back from this. At least she doesn’t waste herself on consecutive rom coms unlike some actresses one could mention. cough Anniston cough.

  7. If only they had cast me in every part, this might have been a great movie. I have so much machismo to burn that it would have set the stage on fire.
    Then Wilde could have had a good movie about putting me out with a fire extinguisher.

  8. Getting old does have its advantages. Every time I’m in a grocery store checkout and I see tabloids talking about Harry Styles I ask myself “Who is this guy anyway?” Now I find out he’s a pop singer crossing over into movies.

    I keep waiting for something better from Pugh. I feel like there’s something there but . . .

    films to the year, don’t know if katie Silberman chooses not to capitalize her first name

    • I do wonder who the people are in magazines at checkouts. In fact I wondered out loud who Nick Cannon was and a woman started a whole conversation with me. But even the dogs in the street know who Harry Styles is. I guess casting him in a support role is one way to test the water, but it delivers a false negative here; no-one could excell in this role. Pugh increasingly seems to be overrated and undercooked. Thanks for the typo check!

      • I’m starting to think you’re right about Pugh, but she does seem like there’s something there if she can get the right role. She was lovely in Little Women, but otherwise…….

        I’m bummed that this film isn’t any good. I was watching the previews last night and was really intrigued – thought I might see it this weekend, but I’ll probably scratch it off the list now….

        • It’s a failure rather than a bore, and to be fair, I can’t fault Pugh’s efforts; she’s better than ok, but this is a reheated Twilight Zone premise, and there’s not much in the final film that you don’t see in the trailer. The ‘twist’ seemed like a dream sequence or a fake out until you realise; no, that’s it, that’s all they have. Such is the enthusiasm for Pugh, she’ll survive this, but those fans of Styles are going to be annoyed by his lack of anything much; his presence derails a very slight film.

          • Same here, but it’s hardly what was meant to be happening; Eddie Marsan would have been better casting for that role…

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