“Don’t Worry Darling” flooded Twitter — not the box office — with its Sept. 23 release. Photo courtesy of the official movie site.
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“Don’t Worry Darling” was released in theaters on Sept. 23. This thriller-horror film directed by Olivia Wilde gained unrelenting popularity due to the behind-the-scenes drama. Despite the social media traction, the film only took in $20 million on opening weekend while its budget was estimated at $20-35 million. Plus Rotten Tomatoes scored “Don’t Worry Darling” a 38%, making this movie more of a worrying disappointment than a darling success.
Welcome to Victory
Set in the 1950s, Alice played by Florence Pugh and Jack played by Harry Styles live in a picturesque utopian community, Victory. Everything is perfect in Victory; the men go and work on top-secret projects while the women live in luxury taking care of their husbands. The only task women of Victory have to worry about is making sure she is pleasing her husband by cooking and cleaning. Other than that, she can purchase whatever she would like and spend hours with her friends. Every day is the same, yet not everything is what it seems. Day by day flaws in paradise begin to unravel. Alice starts to piece together the facade of Victory. She cannot stop the urge to figure out what her husband’s role top-secret project is and the point of her existence in Victory.
With pop star Harry Styles taking on lead Jack Chambers, speculation about his acting abilities were circulating, especially playing opposite seasoned actress Florence Pugh. In addition, this is Styles’ first leading role. He previously held a minor role in the 2017 war-action film “Dunkirk,” based on a six-week battle of World War ll. Plus he reportedly signed a five-year contract with Marvel for his role as “Eros.” Therefore, Style fans were eager to see their idol singer in a leading role on the big screen.
Numerous critics claimed his performance was as expected. With it only being his first leading role, his character development can always improve. Styles has received numerous critiques on his lack of ability to portray complex emotions during “Don’t Worry Darling.” Compared to his Hollywood co-stars, critics thought Styles presented a one-sided performance, lacking the charisma necessary to take on Jack Chambers. During the intense-psychological scenes, Styles emoted more of his personality than the manipulative Jack Chambers. His musical talents are unmatched, but he is far too inexperienced as an actor for this complex film.
Pugh played the leading heroine; the subordinate housewife who slowly uncovers the mysteries of Victory. Pugh portrayed every minute detail of her character, taking the audience with her into this thrilling film. Even her iconic frown made the big screen. She truly outshined her costars in this role, presenting her entire range in two hours.
Pugh complimented antagonist Chris Pine with a conflicting range of emotions. When the heat of the film picks up, there is a distinct difference between the ideologies of Alice and Pine’s character Frank, which they portrayed scarily exceptionally. They allowed the audience to feel Alice’s emotions as she attempts to navigate her life in Victory. Kiki Layne played Margaret, who was the first person to crack the shell in Victory and kickstart Alice’s questioning on the foundation of the project. During Margaret and Alice’s scenes, the plot came together and the audience could see Alice’s conflicts regarding how she feels about her role in Victory.
This film was full of jaw-dropping plot twists, making this film appear more like a psychological thriller than a horror thriller. Characters such as Frank constantly manipulate the audience and other characters to believe his ideologies regarding the Victory Project. Frank’s wife Shelley, played by Gemma Chan, added to the eerie aspects of Victory. While knowing Frank was the kingpin in this dystopian society, viewers were unsure of Shelley’s involvement until the end.
Sophomore health sciences major Ashley Simmons commented on the direction of the movie being a horror and not a psychological thriller.
“I would categorize [“Don’t Worry Darling”] as more of a psychological thriller,” Simmons said. “The whole premise of the movie is about controlling women. My jaw would drop at the measures Jack would take to ensure Alice is subordinate.”
The side characters pulled the psychological thriller aspects together. Bill played by Nick Kroll and Bunny played by Olivia Wilde seemed like another average couple of Victory. Yet throughout the movie, they proved to be distinctly different from the main couple. Bunny is the best friend of Alice, and their relationship takes a turn as Alice pieces together the real premise of Victory. Wilde encapsulated the mysterious yet strategic character that Bunny was.
First-year speech pathology major Zoe Levin also agrees with the disturbing aspects of the movie and mentioned her preconceived notion of the film.
“I went into the movie thinking it was going to be a story about Harry Styles himself,” Levin said. “I had no context of what it was, it was pretty mind-twisting, and I was not expecting [the ending] … the actors made me believe the storyline.”
All publicity is good publicity?
The Cambridge Dictionary states that “ … any publicity is good publicity whether it’s positive or negative …” Media coverage regarding this film has been focused on the off-screen drama rather than the contents of the movie. Let’s start at the very beginning with the help of Glamour Magazine, because this is worrying.
April 2020: Deadline announced that Olivia Wilde would be producing a new thriller with a headlining star-studded cast of Florence Pugh, Chris Pine and Shia LaBeouf.
Sept. 2020: An announcement that Harry Styles would replace Shia LaBeouf due to “scheduling conflicts” was released just a month before the film was set to begin filming.
Nov. 2020: Wilde publicly announced that she and Jason Sudeikis, her fiancé of seven years, split at the beginning of the year.
Dec. 2020: FKA Twigs and Karolyn Pho, two of Shia LeBeouf’s girlfriends, filed sexual battery and abuse lawsuits against him. Variety reported that Shia LeBeouf was “dropped from the film” prior to filming due to “poor behavior.” Neither Wilde nor LeBeouf commented on the report.
Jan. 4, 2021: Styles and Wilde dating speculations began. TMZ reported they attended a friend’s wedding together. Apparently, sparks were visible throughout filming.
Aug. 11, 2022: During the extensive press tour of this movie, it became apparent that Pugh is absent. Her representative stated it had been due to scheduling conflicts with Pugh’s role in “Dune: Part 2.”
Aug. 24, 2022: Wilde uncovered it all in an interview with Variety. She dismissed the idea of a feud between her and Pugh. She also covered LaBeouf’s departure, saying it was against her ethics that she held in production, and she wanted to protect her cast.
Aug. 26, 2022: LaBeouf spoke with Variety saying he quit due to a lack of rehearsal time. He claimed he and the director had a conversation before he left. He also released a video of Wilde where she was negotiating with him to stay on the film, as she did not want him to leave the film back in 2020. She also remarked that “I think this might be a wake-up call for Miss Flo,” referring to Florence Pugh.
Sept. 5, 2022: At the Venice Film Festival, Pugh was nowhere to be seen for the press conference. Wilde and Styles arrived for the press conference in separate boats, ensuing speculation on their relationship. During the panel, Chan, Pine and Wilde avoided questions regarding a falling out with Pugh. “Florence is a force, and we are so grateful that she’s able to make it tonight despite being in production on ‘Dune,'” Wilde answered. She also commented on the mounds of negative press that the tabloids picked up from the release of the Aug. 26 video.
Spit-gate 2022 … also on Sept. 5. Pine and Styles are sent on a Twitter blizzard as a video apparently showed Styles spitting on Pine at the Venice premiere. Styles later joked about the incident at one of his “Love on Tour” shows.
Junior strategic communication major Kyndal Sagarsee noted that the dramatic publicity was omnipresent leading up to the film’s release, especially at the Venice Film Festival.
“With the overall drama, I definitely think a lot came from Olivia Wilde … [and] her talking poorly of Florence,” Sagarsee said. “… [and] the Spit-gate scandal? I thought it was pretty funny.”
Simmons also agrees with Sagarsee on the overwhelmingly negative press this film has gotten.
“The drama between Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde is insane … although Olivia is the only one vocal about it,” Simmons said. “At the [Venice Film Festival] they were not even standing together. I feel like something happened on set but nobody wants to bring attention to it.”
Sept. 19, 2022: Pugh and Pine skipped the New York City premiere but both sent virtual messages thanking fans and apologizing for the schedule conflict. Pugh was working in Europe on “Dune: Part 2,” and Pine mentioned he was in Los Angeles in production.
Sept. 21, 2022: Wilde appeared on The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert to discuss LaBeouf’s departure and everything in between. “There were private messages released without context to try to make a situation look like something that it wasn’t,” Wilde told Stephen Colbert regarding LaBeouf’s exit. When pressured to reveal if he was fired or not Wilde responded with “We had to replace Shia. He is a fantastic actor, but it wasn’t gonna work. When he gave me the ultimatum of him or Florence, I chose Florence, and that was him feeling he was stepping away and me feeling like we were moving on without him.”
Sept. 23, 2022: An anonymous source from the “Don’t Worry Darling” set described the filming experience. According to the Vulture article, “Olivia and Harry would just disappear,” the source said, noting that a “screaming match” eventually broke out between Pugh and Wilde, causing a top studio executive to get involved. According to the source, a “long negotiation process” began to ensure Pugh would participate in the film’s promotional tour “in any way.” An anonymous executive told Vulture that Wilde’s bosses at Warner Bros. are not happy with how the press tour has played out, particularly regarding her interviews about LaBeouf’s exit.
Pugh, Wilde nor Warner Bros has yet to comment on this report, but given the detailed press this film has gotten, it is likely true.
Sept. 24, 2022: In response to the anonymous tip, 40 crew and production team members discredit the report in a joint statement to People. They spoke out regarding the on-set tension and the supposed screaming match. The statement read, “As a crew, we’ve avoided addressing the absurd gossip surrounding the movie we’re so proud of, but feel the need to correct the anonymous ‘sources’ quoted in a recent article,” the statement began. “Any allegations about unprofessional behavior on the set of “Don’t Worry Darling” are completely false.”
Producer Miri Yoon also added to the joint report that “rumors of screaming matches between our director and the leading lady on set are completely unfounded.”
As Styles fans, Simmons and Sagarsee had been staying up-to-date on the drama around “Don’t Worry Darling,” but Levin had no clue.
“I just came to watch the movie with my friends,” Levin said. “I have not heard of any drama before [regarding the film].”
Throughout filming, Wilde posted numerous photos praising Pugh; while Pugh stayed silent, only posting the generic trailer and not interacting with Wilde’s praise. On the other hand, Styles fans have been negatively barraging the pair on his relationship with Wilde, and many fans theorize it as a publicity stunt. Wilde attended many “Love on Tour” dates and the pair have been photographed by paparazzi.
Since they are both Harry Styles fans, Simmons and Sagarsee commented on Styles and Wilde’s relationship.
Simmons felt the staging in Styles and Wilde’s relationship.
“I can definitely see the whole publicity stunt … still unsure about it,” Sagarsee said. “I don’t see a lot of chemistry, and their relationship was just rushed.”
The drama does not end with a publicity stunt relationship as ShowBiz Galore reported the salaries for the “Don’t Worry Darling.” While ShowBiz Galore does not provide any sources or evidence backing this claim it does note that Styles got paid substantially more than everyone else. They reported that he got paid $2.5 million while Pugh received $700,000 for her leading role. Wilde strongly denied the claim.
Sagarsee questioned the authenticity of Wilde’s ethics and commented on the supposed pay discrepancy.
“I hope [the pay discrepancy] isn’t true,” Sagarsee said. “Especially since Olivia prides herself on being a female director and trying to change the game.”
“Don’t Worry Darling” had lots to cover, from on-screen drama to behind-the-scenes drama … and this review did not even cover everything. This film is definitely for a selective audience and reviews vary across the board. If one feels inclined to worry, “Don’t Worry Darling” is still playing in theaters across Indianapolis. Not everyone gets this opportunity after all.