At the risk of intentionally avoiding the razmataz of behind-the-scenes shenanigans, it was hard not to take notice of the “Don’t Worry Darling” North American premiere at TIFF and not address it. Were the salacious rumors hitting the industry trades and tabloids more interesting than Olivia Wilde‘s second film?
It turns out that the mid-century-set utopian story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke, and Katie Silberman, with a rewrite of Van Dyke’s spec script and screenplay by Silberman, is actually an actor’s paradise. Fueled by its setting and strong performances from Florence Pugh and Chris Pine, “Don’t Worry Darling” is mythical and real.
Set in the 1950s, Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles in one of two movies to be released in September) Chambers are a happy couple, living a very copacetic life in Victory, California. The town, built and funded by a mysterious company that Jack works for, plays to the mythical. Their neighbors are orderly, the men’s routes to work are tidy, and their work exceptionally secretive.
Alice lives a carefree lifestyle, playing Susie-homemaker if you’ll forgive the expression. She hasn’t a care in the world except to tend to Jack’s sexual proclivities and entertain dinner parties. Pugh plays the role perfectly, and until an early reveal, there’s nary a ripple in her face. As events unravel, Jack is still the steadfast husband as the story works in the types of hush-hush, covert actions that permeated the time. Styles was intentionally wooden in his performance, primarily due to how the character was written. If you buy into the story and its twists, you don’t mind it much because it gives Chris Pine’s Frank, the CEO of Victory, a chance to shine, and he does it ever so well here.
There’s a moment in the film where Pugh and Pine play a mental “Cat and Mouse” game. The two actors are still in their seats, the camera doing the movements through close-ups, dollies, and wide-angle lenses. Wilde allows the tension to build as the characters go toe-to-toe, adding to the story’s mythos.
Wilde’s direction has been criticized here. However, without her eye, the gorgeous Palm Springs locations with its mid-century, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired abodes, “Don’t Worry Darling,” wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. We can thank cinematographer Matthew Libatique for injecting his style into the sun-drenched oasis. Libatique, who has worked with Spike Lee, and Darren Aronofsky, winning multiple awards for his work on “Black Swan,” and Bradley Cooper on “A Star Is Born,” it’s no wonder why the visuals work as well as they do.
Just as “Don’t Worry Darling” uses its mythos, it explores pathos uniquely. Under Wilde’s direction and with Libaqtique’s eyes, their style remains consistent throughout, and to explore it further, would be the same as offering the gossip as mentioned earlier. I’m not giving you any more fodder.
You’ll need to catch “Don’t Worry Darling” in theaters. It runs 123 minutes, so you’ll need to decide if it should come before or after the re-release of James Cameron’s “Avatar” this weekend as a double feature. It is certainly worth checking out.
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