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Olivia Wilde’s second feature film, Don’t Worry, Darling, is released worldwide on September 22. The events unfold in a model American city somewhere in the 1950s, where all the men work in a secret enterprise, and even their wives do not know what exactly they are doing. One of them – a housewife played by Florence Pugh – decides to unravel this mystery. Film critic Anton Dolin explains why Wilde’s directorial work deserves attention no less than the scandals surrounding the film.

This is one of the loudest premieres of the season. The reason is not in the content or form, but in the circumstances that accompanied the filming. “Don’t Worry, Darling” is the second directorial work of the famous actress Olivia Wilde (“House”, “Race”, “3 Days to Escape”). Her debut Education received excellent reviews, after which big players began to compete for the right to produce the second Wilde film; won New Line Studio. The script was approved, a considerable budget was allocated. But the shooting did not work out right away, the scandals on the set did not subside.

First, Wilde herself and the star of Solstice (and now the Marvel Universe) chosen for the second main role, Florence Pugh, felt uncomfortable in their places and exchanged heroines. After that, Pugh pointedly ignored some of the premiere events in Venice and the United States.

Then a conflict arose with the performer of the central male role, Shia LaBeouf, who was fired for inappropriate behavior (he different version of events) and was replaced by Wilde’s boyfriend, popular singer Harry Styles. Actually, they met while working on the film, which led to the completion of Wilde’s long relationship with actor Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”) – the yellow press was delighted.

Fuel was added to the fire by Canadian psychologist and lecturer Jordan Peterson, who is parodied by the main antagonist of the film, the charismatic and mysterious Frank, played by Chris Pine: Peterson protested against the authors, accusing them of propaganda wok culture.

Against this background, the verdict became a commonplace: the noise around the film is more interesting than the film itself. I want to stand up for Olivia Wilde. Apparently, her success and image literally do not allow many to see and appreciate the director’s talent, which will be obvious to every viewer who is not involved in the context.

The time of action, apparently, the 1950s, the place is the town of Victory, built to order and for the needs of a large-scale highly classified “Project Victory” in California. Every morning, young and beautiful, like a wife, escort fit and vigorous husbands to work. What they do all day, the wives do not know. But they themselves have a lot of worries: cook dinner, tidy up the house, dress up before the evening reception. And if there is a free half an hour, you can visit one of the neighbors and drink a cocktail in the shade. Not life, but supposedly the Garden of Eden, albeit built in the middle of the desert.

However, we all know from childhood: the more delightful the oasis, the higher the risk that it will turn out to be a mirage of a traveler dying of thirst.

The heroine of the film Alice (Pugh) begins to come to these thoughts – strange bouts of deja vu and hallucinations take her out of her usual state of an ideal housewife and make her feel like Alice in a very uncomfortable Looking Glass. Suddenly, she realizes that many others here are also uneasy. When one of her friends disappears without a trace, and her husband is hastily fired from the Project, Alice decides to break the strictest taboo: try to turn off the paved route, go to the central office and find out where and what she is still working on under the guidance of their leader Frank (Pine) her beloved and loving husband Jack (Stiles).

Further retelling is only to spoil the pleasure of the viewer. Immersed in a paranoid atmosphere and taught by world cinema, he himself realizes by the middle of the screening that he is at a crossroads between The Stepford Wives, The Matrix and The Truman Show with a distinct influence of Roman Polansky – and specifically his Repulsions and The Child Rosemary”, on whose heroines the confused Alice is so similar.

Therefore, without delving deeper into the plot, it remains to be recognized that Wilde has an excellent command of the profession. The colorful and artificial world of Project Victory collects all the stamps of the universal dream of American harmony in the 1950s – a mythical era that the damned hippies with their dreams of freedom have not yet had time to destroy. With maniacal thoroughness, this constructed happiness is captured by the camera of Matthew Libatik, a cinematographer who has directed at least two related films, Black Swan and A Star Is Born.

Wild carefully monitors the blurring of the chronotope so that the viewer doubts all the time where and when he (more precisely, the heroine) is now. But the fundamental question that Don’t Worry Darling asks – by the way, the title is no less expressive than the lapidary headlines of the stylistically close Jordan Peele, “Get Out” or “No” – is whether it is possible in principle to return the idyll from the past, preserving fundamental human rights for its inhabitants: to live as you like, to work where you are drawn to, and to love the one you choose?

The dilemma between desirable form and prison content makes the film a remarkable hybrid of utopia and dystopia. And inevitably leads to a discussion of gender roles (in the first half of the film, extremely close to the patriarchal model) and their changes today. How realistic is the scheme of female happiness if it was invented and drawn by a man, even if he wishes well?

To Pugh’s extraordinary acting skills, Pine’s typification is added here – as if an actor-parody of supermen from the cinema of those very 1950s – and the special fragility of Stiles, a pop idol, devoid of the masculinity that was once in demand in its traditional sense. That’s why (let’s leave the question of artistic talent aside) he is so appropriate in the film.

Of course, Don’t Worry Darling is just a genre experience, not original enough to be a sensation. But to deny wit and relevance to this film, and its director’s talent as a director, is unfair.

Speaking of Jordan Peele’s latest movie

Anton Dolin


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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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