Opening with a seductive stream of cocktails and cocktail attire, Olivia Wilde’s gilded-cage thriller Don’t Fear Darling takes place in a vaguely post-war luxurious neighborhood that’s like a Barbie dream city constructed from collective nostalgic reminiscence. Victory, as this home paradise is known as, resembles nearly any inviting postcard depiction of ’50s suburban life placed on display screen over the previous 40 years. That’s all a part of the film’s design. It’s by-product with objective, if not precisely with recent perception.
Among the many residents of this Rockwellian tract-house haven is Alice (Florence Pugh), a younger housewife as immaculately dressed and manicured because the stylish house she ritualistically cleans. When not scrubbing and vacuuming, Alice drinks poolside with the opposite wives of the neighborhood. She’s married to Jack (the pop star Harry Kinds), a blandly dashing British go-getter who lavishes her with standing symbols and ravishes her over the dinner desk. Each morning, he climbs into his glossy silver convertible, becoming a member of a fleet of commuting coworkers racing throughout the desert to firm headquarters — the primary picture that means there is perhaps one thing a bit of stranger than easy stifling conformity occurring beneath the stainless surfaces of this city.
Wilde and her screenwriter, Katie Silberman, don’t rush to disclose that one thing. As a substitute, they let the viewers uncover it progressively with Alice, as little cracks kind on the façade of her “good” dollhouse life. What, she begins to marvel, does her husband do on the market within the desert, at a mysterious constructing not one of the spouses are allowed to strategy, supposedly for their very own security? “We’re altering the world,” insists Frank, city founder and cultishly revered CEO of The Victory Mission, performed with a twinkle of motivational-speaker conceitedness by Chris Pine. He’s fast to dismiss the mounting anxieties of one among his worker’s wives (KiKi Layne, underserved by a skimpy function). Alice, although, begins to see some sense in her concern.
Audiences is perhaps much less fascinated by what’s occurring behind the scenes of the fictional Victory than what went on behind the scenes of this actual film. Don’t Fear Darling arrives now after a press tour that become an extended collection of juicy dramatic anecdotes from the set — an airing of soiled superstar laundry that stored social media enraptured and will properly have goosed public curiosity within the movie. But anybody going into it anticipating telltale indicators of a troubled manufacturing, or perhaps some type of new camp basic of clashing star egos, could also be disillusioned to find how little of that purported chaos made it to the display screen. If something, Don’t Fear Darling is managed to a fault.
It definitely represents a inventive leap ahead for Wilde, whose first function, the teenager comedy Booksmart, was a lot nicer than it was humorous. (Like its uptight honor-roll heroines, it struggled to actually lower free.) Shifting to a wholly totally different wavelength right here — and casting herself in a key supporting function — Wilde sustains an environment of hushed unease through the whisper of a hyperventilating rating, the repetitive buzz of a hi fi to the golden oldies dial, and manufacturing design that’s a bit of fruitfully … off. All the identical, it’s laborious to shake the sense that the director has constructed her second function like an annotated essay: A bit of of the feminist dread of The Stepford Wives, a bit of of the repetitive home routine of Jeanne Dielman, all threaded by means of a commentary on a contemporary male obsession with the standard gender roles of a bygone period.
Wilde’s savviest transfer was securing Pugh, who slowly twists her cherubic pleasure into paranoid misery, like a reversal of her climactic close-up in Midsommar. Essentially the most hanging moments in Don’t Fear Darling discover her Alice staring, figuratively or actually, by means of the wanting glass … or threatening to shatter it. At one level, she’s all of the sudden pinned towards the bay window she’s cleansing by some mysterious, constricting drive — a surreal expression of the second when somebody discovers that they’ve been dwelling each day of their brief life in a fishbowl. But Pugh can’t totally enliven a film that, ultimately, simply begins circling a twist the viewers would possibly work out lengthy earlier than Alice does. Don’t Fear Darling is sort of a Twilight Zone episode pushed to the outer limits of its dramatic sustainability. It takes 122 minutes to do what Rod Serling would have in a cool 25.
What we’re watching is a fantasy of sunny, carefree prosperity splintering right into a nightmare of oppressive confinement. However isn’t that the arc of each film concerning the lie of the suburban dream, and the regressive useless finish of the nuclear household plan? By now, calling the clichéd picture of Fifties two-car-garage American bliss an phantasm is its personal cliché. It’s inconceivable to take a look at an impossibly vibrant, clear patch of entrance garden and never consider the bugs David Lynch discovered squirming beneath some three-and-a-half many years in the past. Don’t Fear Darling throws a brand new coat of paint on that premise. However as drama, it’s prefab.
Don’t Fear Darling opens in choose theaters Friday, September 23. For extra of A.A. Dowd’s writing, please go to his Authory web page.