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Film Review: Don’t Worry Darling

DON’T WORRY DARLING
Rated R
122 Minutes
Released September 23rd

Don’t Worry Darling is a fascinating Psyho-SciFi concept, and the full house audience that attended my screening were all in intense conversations as they left the theatre. Some people were trying to break down the complex twists and turns of the plot. Others were relating predicaments just seen in the movie to their own life.

What director Olivia Wilde does well with this movie is to create a vivid world. The costumes by Arianne Phillips perfectly evoke those of the 1950’s, as does the desert oasis town of Victory. Anyone who has been to Palm Springs will recognize the landmark architecture that has not changed since that era. The home of the CEO in the story is the famed Kaufman Desert House by starchitect Richard Neutra, and the hilltop headquarters of the Victory Corporation is played by the famous Volcano House that was owned by Huell Howser.

This world is not just reflected in the architecture – the relationships between men and women in the story echo the reality of mid-century society. Here the woman’s place is in the home, cleaning, cooking and welcoming her husband back from work at the end of the day in a perfectly fitting perky dress, handing him a cocktail as he walks in the door. Note that cocktails were an accessory, a status symbol of the upper middle class of those times. For those of you who were not alive in the 50’s, I will attest that this indeed was how life really was. The “Millennials” of that generation had grown up sacrificing during a war they thought might never end or might end badly. This American Dream perfect lifestyle was their coup de grace to the uncertainties, fears and rationing of wartime. The house party with perfect hors d’oeuvres and cocktails was their mode of posting on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube. Instead of showing off your camera-ready face on your iPhone, you showed off your camera-ready house and lifestyle. “Victory” was not just a random choice for the name of the town by the writers of the story, Carey and Shane Van Dyke, who are, incidentally, the grandsons of Dick Van Dyke.

I don’t believe the character names are random either. Florence Pugh does a laudable job of bringing her character “Alice” to life, as she goes down the proverbial rabbit hole –Alice in Wonderland? Harry Styles plays the innocent “Jack” …and the Beanstalk? who’s just trying to create a good life for his wife Alice. Chris Pine has the great range to play insidious power-monger guru “Frank.” Well, Frank was the name of the author of the Wizard of Oz. This story is Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz for the 21st Century.

In many ways this movie is well done. What broke the depth and intensity of this intriguing concept, for me, was the style of the dream sequences. They seemed jarring and abrupt, taking away my focus from the narrative and the suspense. I felt like there were parts of the threads of characters’ lives left out, and that seems to have been the case, as Kiki Layne has reported that most of her pivotal scenes were not in the final cut. There is a Harry Styles dance sequence that would have been effective, had it not been painfully and awkwardly long.

There has been much publicity about bad behavior and other discontent among the cast of this film, and hardly any about where it was shot, how vivid the setting is, and that it covers some heavy concepts in lifestyle choices, male/female relationships and mid/century standards. But the old saying “No publicity is bad publicity” works here, and Don’t Worry Darling is drawing big audiences. 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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