‘DON’T WORRY DARLING’
Rated R. At AMC Boston Common, Regal Fenway, Landmark Kendall Square, AMC South Bay and suburban theaters.
A weak and derivative re-imagining of the 1975 cult film “The Stepford Wives” (Wasn’t that what the 2004 Nicole Kidman remake was?), “Don’t Worry Darling” arrives with more baggage than a Kardashian on a trip to Paris. The sophomore effort of director Olivia Wilde of the far better 2019 release “Booksmart,” “Don’t Worry Darling” premiered earlier this month at the Venice Film Festival, where co-star Florence Pugh made it clear she was unhappy about something.
That something might have been that her director, who recently broke up with Jason Sudeikis of “Ted Lasso” fame with whom she has two children, was having an alleged affair with Pugh’s co-star, cross-dressing, pop singer-songwriter Harry Styles. The rumors swirling about now suggest that Wilde and Styles are over, if you care. Vita brevis est and all that.
Alice (FLORENCE PUGH) and Jack (HARRY STYLES) listen to his boss speak at a party in “DON’T WORRY DARLING.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
“Don’t Worry Darling,” which was written by Katie Silberman (“Booksmart”), Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke (“The Silence”), begins like the party scene in “La Dolce Vita” with Pugh’s Alice Chambers, some sort of hyper-sexualized housewife, living in a desert subdivision with her husband Jack (Styles, whose acting is as uneven as his accent). Alice is dancing drunkenly with the other wives for the enjoyment of their young husbands.
The vibe is retro-futuristic with a vintage rhythm-and-blues accompaniment. But not all of this vita is dolce. All the men in the village of Victory Town work for the same mysterious company headed by Frank (Captain Kirk himself Chris Pine), who instead of being charismatic and messianic, sounds like a grotesquely hackneyed motivational speaker. Frank keeps talking about “victory” and “making progress.” About what, he doesn’t go into detail.
Alice and Jack have a passionate, swipe-the-food-and-dishes-on-the-floor sex life. They desperately need a house cleaner. Although Alice lives with Jack in a beautiful mid-century bungalow with Scandinavian-style cabinetry, built-ins and walls of glass that a mesmerized Alice polishes every day, she is having disturbing visions of what appears to b a group of demonic Rockettes dancing in synchronous rhythm, wearing platinum wigs and skimpy outfits. The dialogue is a constant loop of, “Are you all right?” I wasn’t.
The setting of “Don’t Worry Darling” is weird (the film was shot in California desert resort city of Palm Springs). All the men drive brightly-colored vintage cars to work at the same time every morning, while their provocatively clad wives stand in the driveways and wave. The houses have hard-wired landline phones. The wives ride trolleys to go shopping, relax beside the community pool or take ballet lessons from Shelley (Gemma Chan), who is Frank’s protective wife. The wives of Victory Town have no careers or professions of their own. Although Alice’s friend Bunny (Wilde) has two children she doesn’t care about, old people do not exist in this community, unless we count Wilde and Pine. There is no way this place and its inhabitants are real.
But obviousness is no concern to a movie as dumb as this. Before you can say, “Get Out,” Alice has become a sort of pariah because she dares to question Frank about what on earth is going on. “Don’t Worry Darling” is “Rosemary’s Baby” without the baby (or the devil). Pugh is compelling in spite of the shoddy material. With barely enough story to make a one-hour episode of something terrible on HBO Max, “Don’t Worry Darling” is over two hours long. Yes, that is Dita Von Teese and her champagne-coupe bubble bath. Get (me) out.
“Don’t Worry Darling” contains sexually suggestive scenes, profanity and violence.