Don’t worry about the offscreen drama: Olivia Wilde’s glossy flick is a messy but stylish B-movie, streaming now.

Even if you’re not an avid movie goer, you’ve probably heard about Don’t Worry Darling. If not the movie, then at least the alleged behind the scenes drama (as Vulture so dutifully reported) between director Olivia Wilde (Booksmart), Florence Pugh, and Harry Styles. And that’s not even to mention the deranged theory that Styles may have spit on—yes, spit on—co-star Chris Pine in broad daylight at the film’s premiere. Whether any of the supposed infighting is true or just something the Internet cooked up for no good reason, all of the news headlines have put an intense spotlight on the actual film itself.

Don’t Worry Darling is a science-fiction thriller starring Pugh as an endearing ’50s housewife, Alice, who moves with her husband, Jack, to an experimental town. The men go off every day to work on a top-secret project, while the women get to lounge around in paradise. However, the longer Alice stays in town, the more suspicious she becomes about what Jack is working on, the people she’s met, and reality as she knows it. In case you want a point of reference, Don’t Worry Darling is reminiscent of The Stepford Wives, a famous 1972 novel which spawned two film adaptations and follows a woman who comes to believe the other housewives in her town are actually robots.

Having premiered in September amid endless bizarre reports from the set and film festivals, Don’t Worry Darling is available to rent and buy online now. The 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD release date is Nov. 29. 

Pugh stars as a glamorous 1950s housewife living a picture-perfect suburban life. She even has a trophy husband, played by pop star Harry Styles in a wardrobe of impeccable suits and enviable midcentury shirts. But none of the gossiping wives know where their husbands go each day in their shiny Cadillacs, and Pugh begins to wonder what’s really driving the sun-dappled desert town’s smoothly sinister leader, played by Chris Pine. No one else seems worried about it, darling, but there’s definitely something weird going on in this retro utopia.

Director Olivia Wilde slowly cranks up the unsettling aspects of this odd idyll, tormenting Pugh’s increasingly unsettled housewife with teasing visions and mounting paranoia. Wilde also plays one of the other wives, perpetually armed with a cocktail and sharply penciled side-eye. There’s a hint of The Stepford Wives about them, and you’ll probably also find yourself thinking of any number of midcentury melodramas and domestic chillers that stab at the suburban fantasy, from Rosemary’s Baby to Blue Velvet to Get Out.  

So yeah, obviously you know there’s a twist coming. I can’t get through a short TV episode of Black Mirror or Devs or Tales From the Loop without impatiently wishing someone would just tell me the twist so I can go do something more interesting. It’s a real feat to spin a yarn that keeps the viewer engrossed for a whole movie. Don’t Worry Darling largely pulls it off: As John Powell’s unnerving score meshes with classic 1950s pop cuts soundtracking the deliciously stylish oddness, I found myself half-hoping for no explanation at all. There’s only a limited choice of endings for these kind of stories and an over-literal solution rarely lives up to the vibe.

At least it should be. Pugh proves her talent with an almost casual effortlessness, embodying a theater-filling anguish while leaving a lingering impression she still has more left in the tank. Pugh delivers a commanding, often mesmeric performance that anchors the film at even its weakest moments. If we’re being charitable, this is one of those blessed occasions when a performer’s limitations kinda suit the character. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who can’t convince anyone he’s a human person but is perfect as an inarticulate barbarian or stiffened robot. In Don’t Worry Darling, Styles’ pomaded husband is a fantasy figure, so it’s OK that he struggles to inject any emotion into his lines. He’s less a performer and more of a prop — another piece of the glossy furniture filling the set, like a stylish rug or lamp: beautiful, blank and perpetually fading into the background.

As the film premiered at film festivals in recent weeks, the bizarre happenings on screen have been matched by extraordinary events among the film’s director and stars. It isn’t worth rehashing the drama, but it’s grimly ironic that the off-screen drama has boosted a film which could easily have sunk without trace. Don’t Worry Darling is a medium-sized movie, and an original story — the sort of thing you don’t see so much in theaters any more. Even with huge stars aboard, Don’t Worry Darling could easily have been one of those streaming flicks everyone talks about for two years and gets excited about the trailer and then one day you wonder, hey, whatever happened to that movie, and realize it came out on Netflix Prime Video Hulu Plus three months ago.

But don’t relish the messy gossip too much. The frenzied media circus threatens to overshadow the artistic merit of a film directed by a woman, to an extent that’s barely conceivable for male filmmakers. Still, even if you haven’t been following the spit and spats, it’s simply impossible to go into Don’t Worry Darling with no preconceived notions. You’re not meant to. Styles is the hottest pop star in the world, Pugh the hottest movie star. The sizzling pairing of personas is the whole point.

Giving Styles the benefit of the doubt, casting such a magnetic onstage performer and gloriously playful wearer of clothes subverts the retro manliness of Pine, of Jon Hamm in Mad Men, of Sean Connery’s James Bond (glimpsed on a poster in the film). One scene, which plays to Styles’ performative strengths as it puts him squarely in the spotlight, offers a whiff of critique for the way he’s made to caper before us. Which is just one of the many ideas sloshing around Don’t Worry Darling like ice cubes spilling from a cocktail glass.

These ideas may not be particularly subtle or original, but at least there’s something going on beneath the sharkskin suits and pinup dresses. Whether the film makes sense of these themes is another question, but the whole thing turns out to be rooted in seethingly timely anger.

So the music, the clothes and at least one of the stars are worth your time. While it’s far from the sum of its parts, Don’t Worry Darling is a perfectly entertaining B-movie.

Here watch the trailer below

By Vikram

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