At first glance, Olivia Wilde’s elemental gaslighting thriller do not worry honey it’s the kind of sci-fi adjacent movie that deserves a red-hot spoiler alert before you read anything about it. That has been clear since movie trailer droppedintroducing the public to the idyllic 1950s-style “Project Victoria” and its theme, a stepford wives Florence Pugh. Celebrating with bottomless cocktails in one scene and smashing an empty egg in utter shock in the next, the clip’s growing unease signaled that viewers should prepare for a journey full of secrets and twists.
Although this reviewer initially fell for the promise of his Pleasantville-Satisfies-the truman show premise, that enthusiasm was abruptly dampened by the discovery that the film’s feminist lessons are as simplistic as its obvious plot. Written by Katie Silverman, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke, do not worry honey It could have passed as mildly provocative in the 90s, before Truman opened the escape hatch or Neo took the red pill. But Wilde’s film grafts these ideas onto a pedestrian, go-girl template that sadly feels too basic. If this counts as a spoiler, blame the marketing.
At least Wilde’s images are eye-catching. That aggressive 1950s aesthetic (as thematically on the nose as can be), filled with vintage faux furniture pieces, a lovely color palette of mustards and pistachio greens, gorgeous televisions and more, is luxurious, startling in its symmetry. . and flawless, thanks to the knowingly unlived work of production designer Katie Byron. As bare mountains surround a cul-de-sac lined with pristine old-school cars, Wilde and her crew paint a picture so perfectly manicured, anyone can guess whether you’re in a prosperous Los Angeles suburb or Pleasantville. Hurriedly, an excessive number of heavy-handed needle drops, from “Comin’ Home Baby” to “The Oogum Boogum Song,” escort us into Victory, dominated by straight couples, where plucky housewife Alice (a fearless and excellent Pugh) lives with her husband Jack (Harry Styles, who is no match for Pugh).
Alice kisses her husband goodbye every morning, does the housework, wears a nice long dress to tea every night, and prepares a beautiful dinner scheduled for his return. But who cares about dinner, when you can have ravenous sex on the table and break all that pretty china just for fun? Alice and Jack pleasure each other as much as they want without worrying about the neighboring couples, who seem to live just as happily (and with just as many orgasms). There’s Bunny (Wilde, sporting Rita Hayworth’s sculpted old Hollywood waves), Peg (Kate Berlant) and Margaret (KiKi Layne), the latter of whom suffers from a series of bouts with mental health. There’s also Violet (Sydney Chandler), a doe-like newcomer learning the ropes who bravely does the same as the rest chant, “We’re changing the world!” at social gatherings.
Most men except Jack are forgettable, a quality you feel has a purpose. The exception is the evil and cold Frank (Chris Pine), founder of the Victory settlement. The men all work producing “progressive materials” for a happy, chaos-free future for Frank at Victory’s secret headquarters, a place that is off limits and supposedly dangerous for women. Interestingly, Alice and her counterparts ask only occasionally about her men’s work, instead cooking, cleaning, and shopping extravagantly. “Beauty is in control,” says Frank’s wife, Shelley (an elegant Gemma Chan), during ballet lessons that the rest obediently attend.
I wish Wilde and the writers would take Shelley’s advice to heart. Ironically, nothing seems controlled in do not worry honey, which obeys only inconsistent, “because I say so” rules that feel random: Why do women coyly avoid the venue, until they don’t? What’s outside of Victory and why don’t they ask that question? How long has Victoria been there? It is not until the disappearance of an increasingly nervous Margaret, whom no one takes seriously, that Alice becomes skeptical. This is the great Florence Pugh, after all, and even the horrors of midsummer he couldn’t quell his curiosity. But even as she begins to uncover the truth, she’s not sure if Jack is trustworthy enough to be rescued if he can get them out of Victory.
Wilde, an able director with an eye for movement and composition, hires Darren Aronofsky’s cinematographer Matthew Libatique to create some petrifying and colorful visions, along with mesmerizing black-and-white burlesque dances, which are performed with an intoxicating visual style. After demonstrating his ability for dynamic rhythm in smart bookingWilde adopts an organic rhythm here, keeping viewers glued to the action. That’s why it’s an even bigger bummer when an alternate dimension of characters changes the story, telegraphing an end detectable from several Victories away.
Perhaps the main deficit of do not worry honey it’s not even predictability, but a perceptible lack of new ideas of your own. Patriarchy is bad and female autonomy is good? Who knows! But without spoiling too much, what’s especially curious is this film’s outdated and desperate approach to motherhood and heterosexual sex, the latter of which feels fake and seems defined in masculine terms despite Wilde’s pronounced focus on pleasure. feminine and feminism. Pugh, of course, is excellent, although he doesn’t just lead the movie, he leads it. But even if do not worry honeyThe beauty of is intentionally designed to give you goosebumps, all that sadly fills your brain when you look away is a lingering emptiness: a movie with no more weight than, well, a really good trailer.