The most uneventful movies always have the best on-set gossip, for whatever reason.
Olivia Wilde’s second film as a director, Don’t Worry, Darling, has been accompanied by constant reports and rumors of Wilde clashing with her female lead, Florence Pugh, who allegedly has issues with both Wilde and their co-star, popstar Harry Styles—who is also now in a relationship with the actress-director. Oh, and Shia LaBeouf has inserted himself into the drama almost two years after he left production as Styles’ role, claiming he dropped out on his own and wasn’t fired by Wilde.
But, wait. What is this movie even about?
In a sunny, retro, private community called Victory in southern California, fulltime housewife Alice Chambers (Pugh) and businessman husband Jack (Styles) are an idyllic, carefree, happy couple with no real worries or problems. The neighbors in the cul-de-sac they reside in are their closest friends and are just as at peace as Alice and Jack.
But when one of the wives in Victory, Margaret (Kiki Layne), begins behaving strangely at the same time Alice starts having odd visions and dreams, the former gradually becomes suspicious of Victory founder Frank (Chris Pine).
After so much built-up hype by Wilde and Warner Bros. about how impressive Styles’ acting debut is in Don’t Worry, Darling, and then an immediate downturn from critics claiming he’s not only miscast, but straight up bad, I can say he’s closer to somewhere in the middle. He does feel out of his league during the more intense scenes near the end, especially opposite Pugh, but he’s basically fine in the party and flirty sequences.
I’m not exactly expecting him to gain nominations anytime soon, but I also didn’t feel like I was watching an Ed Wood movie either. The rest of the cast, which includes Wilde herself, Gemma Chan, Nick Krohl and Timothy Simons, are solid, and the aesthetics are pleasing—including Wilde’s direction.
Don’t Worry, Darling for the most part is a run-of-the-mill psycho thriller with a pretty hokey final act. Like a lot of psychological suspense films, the twists by the end either turn out “mind blowing” or a let-down. Unfortunately in this case, it’s the latter.
I’m not sure if this is because of Katie Silberman’s heavy rewrites of Carey & Shane van Dyke’s screenplay or the brothers’ original script, but the final product didn’t bring anything new to the familiar formula we’ve already seen in Bryan Forbes’ The Stepford Wives (1975), Peter Weir’s The Truman Show (1998) and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
If it weren’t for Styles’ casting and the implosion of behind-the-scenes stories in the past year, Don’t Worry, Darling probably would have just been casually placed in theaters and on streaming with hardly any notice. Pugh is one of her generation’s best actresses, so she’ll be fine, and maybe Styles can work enough to coin a decent screen gig if he really wants it.
And yes, even though she’s bearing the brunt of the scandals, I think Wilde will be okay career-wise in the future. But Don’t Worry, Darling as a movie, probably won’t make much of a good or bad impression on audiences in the long run.