‘Don’t Worry Darling’ overview: Florence Pugh is not sufficient to redeem Olivia Wilde’s tabloid-friendly second film

The darkly mysterious idea represents a marked departure from Wilde’s spectacular debut with “Booksmart,” a small coming-of-age film that hit all the correct notes. Given an opportunity to step up at school, the actor turned director has assembled a topnotch forged, however in a narrative that teases the buildup a bit too lengthy and would not pay it off very neatly; certainly, the ending turns into what the film’s driving drive speaks of endeavoring to keep away from — particularly, chaos.

Owing a non secular debt to “The Stepford Wives” with its rigorously manicured picture of suburbia, there are many newer factors of comparability as effectively, such because the George Clooney-directed “Suburbicon.” There’s even a dollop of “Edward Scissorhands” within the pastel imaginative and prescient of an ideal cul de sac the place the menfolk drive single file to work whereas their wives dutifully wave goodbye.

Alice (Pugh) and her husband Jack (Harry Styles) seem like dwelling the dream, partying onerous together with his coworkers within the Nineteen Fifties-style deliberate neighborhood the place all of them stay. The two are insanely scorching for one another, nearly sickeningly so to listen to Alice’s pal Bunny (performed by Wilde) inform it.

Looking nearer, although, all of it appears a bit of too good, and thus suspicious, starting with the truth that no person will clarify what precisely it’s they do working for one thing referred to as the Victory Project. There’s additionally a cult-like devotion to the boss, Frank (Chris Pine, like Pugh, a reduce above the fabric), who will get his fees to enthusiastically embrace that they are “altering the world.”

Harry Styles and Florence Pugh play a couple in a company town in 'Don't Worry Darling,' directed by Olivia Wilde.

If the objective is a type of happy-talk conformity, that offers approach to what resembles gaslighting when Alice begins to sense that one thing’s unsuitable, fueled by unusual goals, surreal photographs and the habits of a neighbor.

Based on a script credited to Shane and Carey Van Dyke (Dick Van Dyke’s grandsons) together with “Booksmart’s” Katie Silberman, “Don’t Worry Darling” stumbles into the artistic entice of following the mannequin of a “The Twilight Zone” episode, simply with out the form of revelation that might elevate it into that collection’ extra memorable tier. While the movie has one thing to say about gender politics and misogyny, it isn’t articulated effectively sufficient to tell apart itself from any variety of different motion pictures.

Given that, the query posed by the USA Prime Time relating to the controversy relating to the off-screen relationships — “Will the Spiraling Publicity Harm ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ on the Box Office?” — appears exactly the other way up; moderately, the actual challenge is whether or not that curiosity, together with the Zapruder film-like evaluation of the celebs on the Venice Film Festival premiere, can spur curiosity in an in any other case nondescript film? (The movie is being launched by Warner Bros., like USA Prime Time, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.)
Practically talking, regardless of the warmth surrounding Styles as he steps up his appearing profession, the first draw must be Pugh, whose rising profile — with an Oscar nomination for “Little Women,” “Black Widow” and the upcoming “Dune” — will see her in one other film, “Wonder,” come November.

After Wilde’s spectacular debut, there’s invariably anticipation to see if a filmmaker can pull off one other success. By that measure “Don’t Worry Darling” feels extra like a modest setback than a significant disappointment, however in the end, it is onerous to name this undertaking as a victory.

“Don’t Worry Darling” premieres in US theaters on September 23. It’s rated R. The movie is distributed by Warner Bros. Studios, which like USA Prime Time is a part of Warner Bros. Discovery.

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