For a long time the ’50s were seen by Hollywood cinema, from its iconography, as an innocent and apparently perfect time, with neat and identical suburbs full of typical, economically stable and traditional families: dad works, mom is a housewife. home, the children go to school and in the evenings they all have dinner together in front of the television. Over the decades, that gaze changed and became more critical, incisive, trying to show the other side of that “perfect life”: depression, pills, lovers, crimes, abuse, racism, sexism and various etc. And this, more than the previous one, is the image that many of us have of that time. But not all.
In DON’T WORRY DARLING that familiar suburb, innocent and perfect, reappears on the scene with almost all its clichés and audiovisual references. The attentive viewer knows from the start by seeing the bright smiles and the neat, traditional way in which everything is done: there is a problem here and none of this will end too well. And it doesn’t take long for Wilde’s film to take that for granted. The film stars the couple made up of Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles), one of the many who live in a suburb called Victory that has been put together in a precise and neat way in the middle of a desert. A literal oasis of happiness and harmony that takes place in… well, we will have to see exactly when and how.
The truth is that from the outset one sees that there is something strange in all this, that the behaviors are a bit excessive (even their sexual life is more intense than what one expects to see in a movie that takes place at that time), the order seems choreographed in a musical comedy style (the way the husbands get out of their cars to go to work underlines precisely that) and even the smiles seem to hide some kind of strangeness. And the one who is going to start experiencing it is Alice. First there will be some flashes of images that may or may not be nightmares and then the appearance of a neighbor, an African American, who seems to want to announce to the four winds the falsity of all this and is treated as “the crazy woman” of the neighborhood. Do not think about it too much: something strange is happening here and we will have to see what it is.
In some uneasy zone between THE TRUMAN SHOW, THE STEPFORD WIVES, WESTWORLD, MATRIX, GET OUT! Y PLEASANTVILLE –one could even include the series WANDAVISION either SEVERANCE— seems to work the new film of the actress and director of the very funny BOOKSMART. What one is not very clear about, or that is what the film intends, is what is happening and why, what is the underlying motive or reason that explains this clearly false harmonic life that we are seeing. One of the problems that the film has is that, by throwing the cards on the table so quickly, it is difficult for it to sustain the mystery during the two hours that the story lasts, which ends up making it repetitive and finally somewhat underlined in its intentions if you want politics.
The film, however, was overly criticized during its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, perhaps due to all the “behind the scenes” drama of the production, which arrived at that event preceded by conflicts between the actors and between the actors. and the director, and once there he added new non-cinematic consumer material: Pugh did not go to the press conference, Chris Pine seemed to be on another planet while everything was happening, everyone spoke ill of everyone on social networks and so on. But if one can avoid memes (the one with the alleged spit was a hit a few weeks ago) will come across a much more worthy film than one imagines due to its problematic production. Yes, it gets predictable, obvious, and a bit repetitive, but it’s a suspenseful film with some unsettling moments and a couple of clever ideas that, sadly, can’t be discussed in this review without falling into spoiler territory.
Pugh is the life force of the story, the woman whose facade of happiness begins to fall little by little, the one who begins to see that this perfect suburb organized by a leader/creator and almost head of a sect called Frank (Pine) hides something strange. Where do husbands go to work when they leave the neighborhood and get lost in the desert? Why does everyone bother when they ask each other some things? What role does that mysterious man who seems to be everywhere like a ghostly presence play? And one, seeing her, thinks something similar: why doesn’t Pugh seem, in the way she speaks, acts and moves, to be a person of the time we are seeing or think we see?
Styles’ role is more functional –at least for two thirds of the film– and something similar happens with Wilde’s, who plays the couple’s neighbor, the most enthusiastic defender of the lifestyle in the so-called Victory Project. The excessive care and perfection of the neighborhood in question is explained from the very logic of the film, as well as certain curious musical choices or discordant situations that appear here and there. the mystery of DON’T WORRY… it passes through what is seen and what is not seen as well.
It is a film whose ideas may not be new, but which reveal a certain cultural and social anxiety of this moment in a way not so different from that of Jordan Peele’s debut. In certain segments of the United States (say, those that use an expression like “Make America Great Again”) there is a nostalgia for a time when “things were the way they were supposed to be” that has already become internationalized and worrying, a desire to banish all the cultural changes and extensions of rights that took place from the ’60s onwards. And, in its own way, the plot of Wilde’s film speaks to that.
It does, yes, in a somewhat mechanical and obvious way, which is why it suffers from the same problem as many of the “politically correct” films of this era: from the outset there is not much doubt about who the “villains” of this movie are. history (the blonder, whiter and more smiling, the more chances it has) and who will be the victims, so then it will be 90 or more minutes that we have to guess only what is the trick and the trap. By the time it is revealed, it is no longer important, we get tired of waiting or we guess it by ourselves. The movie explained itself long before its resolution. And that is one of the problems of much of contemporary cinema. No grays, no shades, everything is predigested from the first scene. The rest is a microwave cooking of almost two hours.