Don't Worry Darling is this week's top film: Hollywood Spotlight
The trailer is stylish and polished but the film is rough and alarming. The critics are all over the place on this one but here's the trailer to enjoy before we give you the down low for the week in movies.
By TC Craig
You may not have heard of this film that won at the box office this weekend but enough people went to see it to make it a hit, even if for a week. Director Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling appears to have weathered the storm on its way to a projected $21 million opening weekend at the box office, after a $9.4 million Friday (including Thursday previews). Single-handedly fueling the tabloid news cycle for what seems like months, Don’t Worry Darling also braved poor reviews, more controversies than you can count on one hand, and intense behind-the-scenes drama.
Don't Worry Darling is a 2022 American psychological thriller film directed by Olivia Wilde from a screenplay by Katie Silberman, based on a story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke, and Silberman. The film features an ensemble cast that includes Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, and Chris Pine.
Based on a script credited to Shane and Carey Van Dyke (Dick Van Dyke's grandsons) along with "Booksmart's" Katie Silberman, "Don't Worry Darling" stumbles into the creative trap of following the model of a "The Twilight Zone" episode, just without the sort of revelation that would lift it into that series' more memorable tier. While the film has something to say about gender politics and misogyny, it's not articulated well enough to distinguish itself from any number of other movies.
Don’t Worry Darling is a Stepford Wives-esque original film that cost Warner Bros. $35 million to produce, and potentially millions more to market. It scored a so-so B- CinemaScore from opening day audiences, which doesn’t bode well for its performance in the long run. The reviews haven’t been glowing either.
Following the critical success of Wilde's directorial debut Booksmart (2019), a multi-studio bidding war took place for the rights of her second film, with New Line Cinema eventually winning. Pugh joined the cast in April 2020, with Styles being added that September, replacing Shia LaBeouf. Filming began in Los Angeles in October, lasting through February 2021.
Alice and Jack are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950's societal optimism espoused by their CEO, Frank--equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach--anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia. While the husbands spend every day inside the Victory Project Headquarters, working on the "development of progressive materials," their wives--including Frank's elegant partner, Shelley--get to spend their time enjoying the beauty, luxury and debauchery of their community.
Life is perfect, with every resident's needs met by the company. All they ask in return is discretion and unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause. But when cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can't help questioning exactly what they're doing in Victory, and why. Just how much is Alice willing to lose to expose what's really going on in this paradise?
According to Keith Garlington of Keith and the Movies, Wilde’s ingenuity and imagination is seen everywhere, but most notably in her visual approach. She and cinematographer Matthew Libatique give their sun-bathed suburb a utopian glow.
Everything about their immaculate 1950s veneer (the palm trees, the landscaping, the homes, etc.) is pristine to the point of artificiality. It’s a perfect representation of the pre-fabricated world these privileged few have made for themselves.
In this cozy coterie women have all their needs met and are pampered with nice homes, beautiful dresses, and a bustling social life. But make no mistake, this is a community custom-made for men and built on the malignant ideal of old-fashioned subjugation. This only grows clearer as the story progresses. Yet everyone seems onboard, in large part due to their unwavering trust in the charismatic head of The Victory Project, Frank (Chris Pine). His pop-star presence and persuasive speeches of nonsensical mumbo-jumbo is all it takes to sell his misleading vision to his starry-eyed residents.
Don't Worry Darling had its world premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 5, 2022, and was released in the United States on September 23, 2022, by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised Pugh's performance, the cinematography, and production design, but ultimately found it unsatisfactory.
The film's reportedly troubled production was the subject of media attention and controversy, including conflicting reports regarding the circumstances of LaBeouf's departure and alleged conflicts between Wilde and Pugh.
WHAT ABOUT "THE WOMAN KING?"
Understandably affected by this week’s new release, the similarly female-skewing The Woman King is expected to fall by 43% in its second weekend. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical drama, starring Viola Davis in the lead role, is expected to make $10 million in its sophomore weekend after a $2.95 million Friday, pushing its domestic total to $35 million. The film received glowing reviews and over-performed last weekend, reigning atop the box office charts.