Posted on March 3, 2023
Olivia Wilde’s second feature landed with some unfortunate baggage. In this age of massive content competition, that’s the last thing your baby needs before you kick it out into the world: another reason for people to skip it.
And that was just one red flag.
But let’s start with the first gorilla in the room and move on to the other hurdles this beautiful, exotic, and compelling film had to overcome when it was released.
Rather than recount every sordid detail of the breathless scandal that revolved around an actor who was or wasn’t fired and what the director may or may not have said, I will just say that I believe Olivia Wilde did everything she was accused of and just add that they are the mildest of the things filmmakers of all genders have done to get their movie made.
It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now. The problem that kept me from watching Don’t Worry Darling on its release was the other gorilla in the room: this is the kind of story where you know exactly how it’s going to end so all that matters is the journey.
The solution to the mystery is going to be one of two things: Virtual Reality or Post Apocalyptic Island.
Personally, I was rooting for the second one. I really wanted Alice to drive out of the desert and discover the world in ashes. But, honestly, the ending they went with was also fine. Like I said, there was never going to be a surprise at the end. The mystery wasn’t ‘are they in a VR?’ so much as ‘why are they in a VR?’.
And I did like the twist that the husbands schlepp their lives away from a twisted devotion to keep their wives “happy”.
But, as I said above, the joy of this kind of movie is not the destination, it’s the journey.
And this is a gorgeous journey.
Every now and then, I forget the truth about the world and think to myself that actors are just people with a peculiar set of skills. And in most cases, that’s completely accurate. Stars, on the other hand, are a completely different subject.
There is something about certain people, a kind of existential narcissism, that forces us to watch them, to want to watch them. People like Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, and, yes, Harry Styles.
We would watch them do the dishes for hours and come away feeling entertained and fulfilled. It is in our nature. We crave the light reflected from their perfectly symmetrical faces.
So, if you’re going to take us on a journey where the outcome doesn’t matter, you can’t go wrong with people like that.
And, while you’re at it, give us mid-century modern design at its best. Give us ’56 Thunderbirds and country club scenes and cocktail dresses for lunch.
Anything to distract us — at least for a moment — from the nagging questions these stories always raise.
Why does someone die in real life if they die inside the VR?
In The Matrix, they explained that the body cannot live without the mind. But let’s be honest, that didn’t mean anything then and it doesn’t mean anything now.
What was Alice eating all that time she was strapped to the bed? And why did Nick Kroll get a dinky little sedan when everyone else got a cool muscle car?
The answer to all those questions is pretty simple: it doesn’t matter. The point of this whole exercise was for us to have a chance to watch Florence Pugh deliver an excellent performance rife with paranoia and betrayal.
If I had a quibble, it would be only that we could have used more Chris Pine. But that’s true of every movie.