Allow us to, if we will, put apart all the assorted mini-controversies that surrounded the lead as much as the Venice premiere of Don’t Fear Darling. Now that the movie has debuted, perhapswe willsimplydeal with the film itself, which is neither triumph nor catastrophe. Director Olivia Wilde has made an apparent and intermittently entertaining sci-thriller, one which borrows closely from many higherissueshowevermakes use ofthese pilfered componentssuccessfullysufficient. For some time, anyway.
The movie takes place in what seems to be like Sixties Palm Springs, mid-century improvement ringed by threatening desert mountains. It is adeliberategroupconstructed by a shadowy company, one which has a vaguely messianic mission to advance humanity . . . by some means. The boys, all good-looking, go off to work every morning whereasthe ladies, all fairly, take care ofthe children or soak themselves in afternoon cocktails with neighbor wives. (Or they do each.) It’s an arch mixing of Mad Malesstylish (with a vivid polish) and Manhattan Mission secrecy. After all, there may be an ominous hum underlying all this sozzled good-living, the sense that nothing this completelysafe and uniformly agreeable might beactual.
We most likely sense that as a result of we’re acquainted withThe Stepford Wives, or The Truman Present, and differentmotion picturesand tvexhibits that current an outwardly pristine, if antiquated, design for dwelling that ripples with sinister, unseen power. Wilde’s movie wears these influences plainly and with outa lot re-styling. Nonetheless, the movieseems to be good and is crammed with peppery performances. Within the lead is Florence Pugh, that nice 20-something phenom who burst onto the scene a number of years in the past in Girl Macbeth and has since delivered one puttingefficiency after one other. If her cool scratch and mettle, within thetype of housewife Alice, appear a bit misplacedon this breezy world, that’s most likelythe purpose. She is supposedto understand, as are we, that she doesn’t belong on this ordered place. Pugh sharply registers Alice’s mounting alarm, and she or he vibes nicely with the opposite wives, performed by, amongst others, comicKate Berlant and Wilde herself.
After whichthere may be the matter of Alice’s husband, Jack, who’sperformed by little-known indie musician Harry Kinds. I child, after all. Kindsis likely one of thegreatest music acts on the planet for the time being, and this, his second moviefunction, was as soon as the buzziest factorconcerning thefilm. Seeing Kinds on displaylooks likeone thing of an occasion, a way of event that he rises to satisfy. Sure, there may be some flatness when Kindswill get to emoting, however he in any other case exists confidently inside theimage. I don’t suppose he’s a Brando for the digital period or something, however I would definitely be curious to see him in one thing else after this. (Like, say, My Policeman, which premieres on the Toronto WorldwideMovieCompetitionsubsequent weekend.)
Don’t Fear Darling glides alongside, its jumble of repurposed parts in full of lifesufficientconcordtill it’s time to knuckle down and actually get into what’s occurring to Alice. It’s then that Katie Silberman, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke’s screenplay begins to falter, as does Wilde’s route. They present us basicallythe identical scene over and over: Alice pondering she sees one thing unnerving solely to be instructed, in gaslight-y phrases, that she’s imagining issues. She’s experiencing womanly hysteria, all the boys in pressed white shirts and crisp fits who encompass her insist. Wilde can’t work outmethods to get the story out of this eddy; she stalls and repeats till it’s time to simply go forward and reveal what’s occurringas a result of the film has to finishin some unspecified time in the future.
When that reveal comes, the movie caves in. The intention right here is to inform a pertinent story about ladies’s subjugation beneaththe trendy forces of anti-feminism, which has hardened on-lineright into a real-world aggressive sociopolitical ideology fueled by pseudo-intellectual public figures, red-pilled demagogues who’ve snaked their approach into mainstream discourse—or, actually, created their very own mainstream. That’s definitely a salient matter for a movie, however in Don’t Fear Darling’s execution, Wilde affords no new insights. There are even some contradictory parts to the grand secret premise of the movie, a muddled conflict of faux-empowerment and Handmaid’s Story debasement.
Not that we actually have a lot time to consider these issues. As soon as the moviebeginsexhibiting its playing cards, it hurries to its climax and conclusion, full with an unconvincing automotive chase and a homicide. What power the film had has been sapped. It staggers throughout the end line because it asks us to contemplateone thing profound, an amazing re-awakening that mayresult in a mighty reckoning for the film’s dangerousmales. We don’t get to see that bit, although, as a result ofDon’t Fear Darling has used up all its methods.
What staysconstant and undaunted all through, although, is Pugh, a commanding and centered actor who makes the many of the hash she’s served. There’s a vivid scene wherein Alice confronts the group’s shifty, sauntering overseer, performed with a cult chief’s menacing enchantment by Chris Pine. The 2 crackle nicelycollectively, and of their shared moments the movie briefly feels spiky and creative. If solely their chemistry was the inspiration on which Don’t Fear Darling was constructed, as a substitute of its stack of blurry copies of issuescompletedhigher elsewhere, years in the past.