This text could tell of the overthrow of the patriarchal system, at least in Movieand "what women can achieve together", as the director Olivia Wilde undauntedly puts it in interviews. However, one wonders if she can be serious after seeing her thriller "Don't Worry Darling" and the headlines surrounding its theatrical release.
On the publicity tour, those involved gave an image that can be classified somewhere between a schoolyard dispute and PR amateur theatre. Right in the middle: the director Olivia Wilde. Lead actress Florence Pugh is no longer speaking to her, allegedly because Wilde was too busy on set with lead actor and pop superstar Harry Styles, who is her new boyfriend. Styles came in as a replacement for Shia LaBoeuf, whom Wilde claims was fired. Although LaBoeuf claims he went himself. What he tries to prove by means of a video recording, which is unfavorable for Wilde, in which she asks him to come back. And then there was the PR stunt between Styles and his co-star, villain Chris Pine (in the movie, not in life): one got the other spat in the lap? The internet still hasn't recovered from the YouTube clips. What was a bit forgotten about it: the film.
Fried eggs and smacks in the morning, steak and sex on the dining table in the evening
"Don't Worry Darling" starts promisingly. Wilde has created her first feature film after her acclaimed directorial debut "Booksmart" (2019) as an emancipation story. The setting is Victory, a small American model settlement in the fifties and at the same time a claustrophobic paradise. Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles) lead a life there with their friends in which they lack for nothing materially. All couples have a fancy house with a neatly trimmed lawn and white picket fences in front. Every morning, the men drive in Cadillacs to work on the mysterious Victory Project, which aims to do nothing less than change the world. The women pass the time at the pool, at the ballet or shopping and take care of the house and stove. Fried eggs and smacks in the morning, steak and sex on the dining table in the evening. Until the idyllic suburban facade, polished to a high gloss, begins to crack.
The background noise is faint at first, then it gets louder and louder: constantly this wafting hum in the background, as if everything could blow up at any time. Eggs that consist only of an empty shell. Flashbacks where Alice feels like she's drowning. A melody you can't get out of your head. A plane crash in the desert that no one else notices except her. And finally the neighbor who is suddenly taken away by figures dressed in red.
Wilde turns Florence Pugh into a lone fighter against overwhelming odds. The harmonious community turns out to be a totalitarian system: everyone listens to Victory founder Frank. For Chris Pine, the charismatic, demonic leader is a departure from the All American Boy image that he otherwise mostly plays. At first, Frank seems like a manipulative genius who skillfully creates dependencies and binds his fellow human beings to himself. Jack, in particular, dances on stage for the boss's birthday to the point of utter exhaustion, which is a moment exclusive to Harry Styles, and one that blurs the lines between reality and fiction.
The fact that there is still no real thrill in the showdown between Frank and Alice is due to the script, which ultimately makes the autocrat look like a primitive bully, and the pale supporting characters without profile. Olivia Wilde even plays one of them herself: her contribution as a friend, however, is limited to talking the doubting Alice out of everything and blaming her. Not a trace of female solidarity. It's a similar story with the others, men and women: we experience them in dramatic scenes, it's about life and death, and yet it leaves you strangely cold. At other points, Wilde lays it on so thick - a wild chase through the desert - that it comes across as impulsive ideas. Unfortunately, the ambitious story remains piecemeal, although it looks impressive.
Wilde squandered the greatest potential with Harry Styles. Most of the time, except for the spectacular solo performance, he dances innocently through the plot as if he were entertaining his audience at a concert. It's a pity, because it is precisely in his character that the key to the dark truth of the film lies and with it the (completely obsolete) question of whether the lives of women belong to anyone else but themselves.
Don't worry darling, USA 2022 - Director: Olivia Wilde. Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Stiles, Chris Pine. Warner, 122 minutes. Theatrical release: September 22, 2022.