Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Concern Darling” is a film that, in current weeks, has been besieged and consumed by offscreen dramas, none of which I’ll recount correct proper right here, in addition to to notice that when a movie’s lead actress appears actively reluctant to publicize the movie in query, that’s an indication of some important discord. Nevertheless it might be massively unfair to permit this tempest in a teapot of gossipy turmoil to affect one’s emotions in regards to the film. Within the occasion you wish to discuss factors associated to “Don’t Concern Darling,” you want look no additional than at what’s onscreen.
The movie, written by Katie Silberman, with the good manufacturing design of Katie Byron, is a kind of candy-colored “Stepford Wives” contained in the Twilight Zone meets “The Handmaid’s Story” for the age of torn-at-the-seams democracy. In concept, this would possibly add as loads as a juicy watch. Wilde, whose first attribute was the witty and vivacious 2019 girls-on-a-bender comedy “Booksmart” (that’s her second movie), is a gifted director who’s acutely aware of methods to set a temper. In “Don’t Concern Darling,” she does that to the max, and for a when you get caught up in it (or, at the least, I did). Between the pop ambition, the tasty dream visuals, and the presence of Harry Varieties in his first lead place, “Don’t Concern Darling” shouldn’t have any downside discovering an viewers. Nonetheless the film takes you on a go to that will get progressively loads a lot much less scintillating on account of it goes alongside.
Because of it opens, we hear the engaging bop of Ray Charles’ 1958 model of “Night time Time Is the Right Time,” and we’re plunged into what appears to be like like a cocktail celebration from the “Mad Males” interval, in addition to that everybody is so loud and garish and lewd and hyped that you simply simply marvel if the Gibson martinis are spiked with Ecstasy. This isn’t what cocktail events have been like as soon as extra then. Nonetheless that’s on account of this isn’t as soon as extra then. It’s now.
We’re in an odd deliberate group someplace in a palm-tree desert, the place each house is the very same white flat cookie-cutter mannequin (they appear like one issue Frank Lloyd Wright would have designed for IKEA). Every morning, the lads get into their enormous curvy postwar vehicles, which might be in a lot of lollipop shades, and exit their suburban cul-de-sac in a choreographed line. They’re headed for but another day’s work on the Victory Enterprise, a analysis operation so extreme secret they’re not even allowed to debate it with their wives. The identical previous agency line is that they’re engaged on “the event of progressive supplies,” which makes it sound like they’re inventing nuclear weapons or one issue each bit as darkish and monumental. (Sometimes, an explosive underground hum will shake and rattle these mid-century-modern dwelling rooms.)
And the ladies? They maintain residence, chatting and backbiting, cleansing residence, caring for the kids, hanging out on the pool, preparing tuna salad and deviled eggs, taking ballet lessons, and greeting their husbands with a drink on the door. You might survey all of it and suppose: What updated hell is that this? Nonetheless “Don’t Concern Darling” hasn’t even gotten to the sinister half nonetheless. The title of this surreal retro subdivision is Victory, and the primary concern everybody talks about is how implausible it’s. How fortunate they’re to be there, and one of the best ways joyful they’re to have escaped the life that they’d before.
Our entry diploma into the Victory life-style is a childless couple who look singularly attention-grabbing and in love: Jack, carried out by Varieties with a healthful clever that marks him as a pure present show display screen actor, and Alice, carried out by Florence Pugh, who holds down the middle of the film with a spark of eagerness that melts correct proper right into a cautious detective’s gaze. These two can hardly protect their arms off one another (early on, she clatters her dinner roast onto the underside, in order that Harry’s Jack can go down on her — a scene that should promote $5 million price of opening-weekend tickets appropriate there), and there’s an affection to their interaction. Nonetheless is it exact? Is one factor we’re seeing exact?
The prefab group of Victory is run by a person named Frank, who furthermore created it, and as carried out by Chris Pine he has the character of a New Age cult chief — not a proto guru from the ’50s however a kind of smiling fascists of self-actualization, the sort who can kill you with their delicate positivity. And, in precise truth, the rationale for that’s that they’re in no way reliable. They’re making an attempt to get one issue out of you. They’re “open” about every issue however their very private agenda. Pine supplies a tasty effectivity, however as shortly as Alice and Jack be a part of the choice residents for a celebration at Frank’s oversize residence, it’s clear one issue deeply troublesome is at play.
The characters in “Don’t Concern Darling” have a cult chief on account of they’re, in essence, a cult: contempo people who’ve fashioned a bunch by which they pretend to dwell like middle-class ’50s drones, and agree in no way to query one factor and to easily do what they’re instructed. Asking questions on what’s actually occurring, one of the best ways whereby Alice begins to, goes to get you in downside. If the movie has a resonance, and bits and devices of it do, it’s that we’re dwelling in a world immediately that appears more and more extra assembled out of cult psychology: the de facto cult leaders (like Trump), the tribal mindsets that dictate a inflexible ethical absolutism, the retro fetishization of Nineteen Fifties values as a primal preferrred.
Alice, from the beginning, is beset by shock-cut hallucinations which could be like Busby Berkeley numbers that flip into evil aims. And factors begin to occur round her. She pays express consideration when Margaret (KiKi Layne), the one Black girl in Victory, stands on the perimeter of Frank’s pool celebration, aghast and distraught, and asks, “Why are we correct proper right here?” Alone on a trolley automotive, Alice watches a propeller airplane crash contained in the desert and runs out to see what occurred, going over to the state of affairs no girl is meant to get close to: the Victory Enterprise headquarters, which sits atop a mud mountain like a Bond villain’s lair inside the kind of an enormous stripped golf ball. She returns wanting to inform everybody what she’s found, however she’s handled like Katherine Ross in “The Stepford Wives” or Mia Farrow’s Rosemary— like all particular person who hasn’t been develop to be a pod specific particular person nonetheless. She’s furthermore just a bit bit like Jim Carrey in “The Truman Present”: any particular person who merely woke as loads as a result of the corridor of mirrors she’s dwelling in and on account of this actuality must be silenced. The sinister nerd Dr. Collins (Timothy Simons) is shipped over to drug her up. Her beloved Jack unexpectedly begins performing like he’s…one amongst them.
In any case, when these fully totally different films purchased proper right here out (even “The Stepford Wives,” which is an entertaining piece of claptrap), the world was comparatively a lot much less used to this type of conspiratorial socio thriller. The early scenes of “Don’t Concern Darling” are the movie’s largest, however even there it’s laborious to not uncover the top-heaviness with which the film telegraphs its non-public darkness. (It’s not like we watch Chris Pine’s speech and suppose, “What an excellent dude!”) To really work, the movie ought to reel us in slowly, to be insidious and beautiful in one of the best ways whereby that “Get Out” was. As an alternative, it’s ominous in an apparent means.
Nonetheless it does have an infinite twist, which I’ll, in precise truth, not reveal. I’ll merely say that it’s a mix of “Squid Sport” and Shyamalan, that it must spin your head however would possibly go away you scratching it, and that it’s hooked to Harry Varieties being steady, for a spell, as a runty unattractive geek, which (shock) merely isn’t precisely convincing. What’s convincing is how merely Varieties sheds his pop-star flamboyance, whereas he retains his British accent and takes over one celebration scene by dancing as if he have been in a ’40s musical. There’s actually one issue fairly previous fashion about Varieties. Collectively collectively together with his popping eyes, floppy shock of hair, and saturnine suaveness, he recollects the youthful Frank Sinatra as an actor. It’s too early to inform the place he’s shifting into films, nonetheless when he must he would possibly want an exact run in them.