He’s not called on to do a whole lot in this movie, but the twist relies on him, and he at least does a passable job at sticking that landing. Still, with talented actors sharing the screen with him, it’s clear that Styles can’t quite hold his own here. Meanwhile, Pine lends gravitas (he makes the line “Yet here you are, preparing dinner like a good girl” a completely chilling experience), and Pugh is consistently gripping. One particular dinner party scene with Pine and Pugh as its axis immediately shows what this movie could’ve been had a more capable actor been cast in the role of Jack. But make no mistake — the rest of the cast is outshone by Pugh’s masterful performance of Alice’s curiosity, skepticism, and eventual shattering. She doesn’t just carry the whole film; she basically bench-presses it.
Some sequences of Don’t Worry Darling are wholly unnecessary. It’s fine. It’s fine! I had a good time! I would watch this on an airplane. I would watch this on a rainy Saturday. I would fund Olivia Wilde’s next movie. I think there’s something there, and I am interested in what comes of it.
None of that coheres with the air time this movie has commanded, from the start of the scandal. At first, I was thrilled to be following the developments turn by turn. Finally, celebrities were giving us mess and gossip and shade. Did you see the way Pugh’s stylists were wearing Miss Flo shirts? Do you think Styles spit on Pine in Venice? Did you see what Pugh posted when she skipped the press conference? Everything but what’s in the movie has become the talk of the town.
But even the drama is more complicated than at first blush. After Wilde said she fired LaBeouf to “protect” her set, LaBeouf claimed that he wasn’t fired, but detailed in a letter to Wilde that he quit because “your actors and I didn’t have enough time to rehearse.” LaBeouf, who is facing multiple accusations of abuse that he has denied, also released a video of Wilde asking him to come back to the project, which immediately painted Wilde as disingenuous. But a Vanity Fair interview with Wilde earlier this month claims the video was taken before Pugh expressed discomfort with LaBeouf. Meanwhile, on The Late Show this week, Wilde told Stephen Colbert that the dispute over whether LaBeouf quit or was fired comes down to semantics.
Olivia Wilde’s next project is a biopic of legendary gymnast Kerri Strug, most famous for winning Team USA the gold at the 1996 Olympics while performing with an injured ankle. Wilde is also attached to direct a holiday movie also written by Silberman, which suggests that that writer-director relationship is working for her. This is worth noting, because those consistent relationships can be crucial in how a director’s voice develops over time. (Don’t Worry Darling was shot by Matthew Libatique, who has been a close collaborator of auteur Darren Aronofsky for more than two decades.)
Making a movie that shows skill and promise is only the first step toward filmmaking longevity. You have to have people who want to work with you, who want to lend their reputation to yours. It would be a shame if a director like Wilde, working on building that reputation, got tagged with the mess surrounding this film. ●