There are occasions when the dialog round a movie previous to its launch is so loud and ridiculous that it may drown out a much more fascinating dialogue round an in any other case excellent film. Then there’s the case of the Olivia Wilde-directed “Don’t Worry Darling,” round which rumors of forged firings, an on-set romance, and on- and off-set stress have swirled for the previous a number of weeks.
That chatter that had such a grip on social media customers, although, will doubtless stay probably the most enthralling factor to return out of “Don’t Fear Darling.” The precise movie is hole and disappointing.
And that’s a disgrace, as a result of on the floor it appears provocative and like one thing baked within a “Stepford Wives” Dutch oven. It’s a narrative about indoctrinated housewives in post-World Warfare II suburbia. Just like the 1975 chiller, there’s malevolence afoot beneath the cheery and superb technicolor floor of “Don’t Fear Darling.”
However how that reveals itself falls flat, and the plot that comes earlier than it — via a script penned by Katie Silberman, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke — has mere glimmers of sharp writing. Primarily, although? It’s simply undercooked.
The premise and expertise are actually there (save for one efficiency that I’ll get to in a second). Identical to in 2019’s “Midsommar,” Florence Pugh is terrific at taking the viewers’s hand and bringing us unwittingly inside what finally ends up being the pit of hell.
The actor anchors “Don’t Fear Darling” as Alice Chambers, adoring spouse of Jack (Harry Types), with whom she has settled right into a beguiling group in Fifties California. After we meet them, they’re proper in the midst of what we come to know as a day by day routine.
Jack is working off to his nondescript workplace job, referred to solely because the “Victory Undertaking,” in a swimsuit and carrying a skinny black briefcase. Alice virtually skips to the automotive as he will get in, prepared at hand him his espresso mug and plant a lipsticked kiss on his cheek.
Reduce to the after-work scene when Alice has simply completed making ready a juicy steak inside their pristine kitchen. She has a stiff drink prepared for her husband as he walks within the door. However Jack barely takes a sip earlier than he wraps Alice in his arms and makes passionate like to her — on the sofa, up in opposition to the wall, or typically on the identical desk on which they eat.
And it often entails him taking place on her.
This repetitive picture is an fascinating, presumably intentional subversion of the standard one-dimensional, June Cleaver-esque idea of the asexualized and patriarchal housewife devoid of character. “Don’t Fear Darling” doesn’t take Alice completely exterior of the truth of white suburban housewives within the ’50s. Nevertheless it does give her some much-needed pep.
And for some time, it seems like Wilde and the trio of screenwriters current an interesting setup. Alice and Jack throw full of life events for the neighborhood. She smokes and drinks, and she or he and her man have intercourse prefer it’s their faith.
Certain, they get questions on once they’re going to have youngsters (it’s the ’50s, in spite of everything). However they’re additionally the envy of all the opposite spirited housewives on their completely manicured block. These embrace Alice’s martini-toting bestie Bunny (Wilde), the dignified Shelley (Gemma Chan), wide-eyed Peg (Kate Berlant) and new-in-town Violet (Sydney Chandler).
However like all immaculate picture, when Alice begins trying a bit too deeply at it, much less savory issues current themselves. Like, why is it that nobody is allowed to step foot exterior the neighborhood? What sort of work does Jack and actually each different man on this intensely gated group precisely do for the cultlike firm run by the mysterious Frank (Chris Pine)?
These are all vital questions that “Don’t Fear Darling” solely type of solutions by the point credit roll on the finish. However there may be one much more urgent query that arises and turns into a thorn within the film’s facet: What’s up with Margaret (Kiki Layne), the uncommon Black spouse within the neighborhood, who — legend has it — went off the deep finish after stepping out of line as soon as?
Proper about right here is the place “Don’t Fear Darling” begins to plummet, and simply when it’s at its most intriguing. That’s as a result of it presents a personality with a ton of potential to actually subvert previous iterations of this premise, and does little or no along with her.
Margaret has perhaps a handful of strains in the entire film, but she is essential to the story.
Her sudden and visibly distraught look is what catalyzes Alice’s resolution to rock the nefarious boat and discover out what’s really occurring.
However as a result of the film establishes Alice because the protagonist, we immediately root for her — regardless that Margaret was shunned by her neighbors for doing the identical factor.
Not like Alice, Margaret stays an underwritten character largely seen in short, enigmatic flashbacks that elevate extra questions, or via cracked doorways as her husband (Ari’el Stachel) tries to calm her down (from what we’re to imagine is considered one of her “episodes”). Or — and this underscores the film’s unstated message — in considered one of Alice’s unreliable visions.
As a result of it turns into abundantly clear that regardless of the movie’s capability so as to add nuance to the white-woman-in-plight narrative, Margaret is barely right here as a plot system. Simply take into consideration what may have been if each Alice and Margaret collaborated to flip this unusual system through which they dwell.
Perhaps the filmmakers had been too preoccupied with attempting to concoct the most inane twist within the third act to quibble over its closely white feminist vibes. A part of the difficulty is that this curveball entails a whole lot of Jack, and Types simply isn’t as much as that process.
It’s tremendous within the first two-thirds of the movie when Jack is merely serviceable (save for one erratic “dance” scene). However when Types has to assist pivot the storyline, he’s uncompelling and uninteresting. Everybody else within the film appears to must act further onerous in scenes with him. That features those who’re solely phoning of their performances but handle to nonetheless entertain.
There’s a well-liked thought that when you might have greater than two screenwriters on a challenge, the ultimate film finally ends up trying prefer it has a bunch of break up ends. That’s undoubtedly true for “Don’t Fear Darling,” an alluring film that finally fumbles the ball so onerous that the lacking comma in its title is definitely extra placing than a lot of what occurs in it.
The filmmakers simply don’t appear to know which route to go and what they really need to say with “Don’t Fear Darling.” When it subverts the ’50s patriarchal lens, it’s partaking and enjoyable. However when it tries to truly take care of that, even including an entire different storyline besides, it skids off the rails. The story is needlessly overcomplicated.
And a few of these aforementioned questions it poses? The viewers will doubtless come away scratching their heads, nonetheless attempting to determine it out — and never in an excellent, borderline pretentious means both. There’s a whole lot of working on the finish of the film, prefer it’s racing towards a significant revelation. For a second, you eagerly anticipate that. However then, it simply … concludes.
And that’s most likely the most important metaphor of your entire “Don’t Fear Darling” saga. For weeks, even months, earlier than its launch, there was such an intense buildup round it. However then the film comes out, and it’s like, nicely, that occurred. On to the subsequent factor.