Credit: Warner Bros/Everett Collection
Do not worry, dear fails to deliver as much intrigue as its publicity tour, its shallow and ridiculous script, resulting in a film that lands with a terrible thud.
It’s hard to remember a time in recent memory when a troubled production so completely overshadowed his film as Do not worry, dear. Spend enough time tracking the press tour for Olivia Wilde’s second feature, and you’ll cast the other end as Fox Mulder: tired, bleary-eyed and unyielding that the truth – in this case, who fired who, who dated who when, and who is lying about what now – it’s out there, perpetually out of reach — just a veritable cascade of twists leading up to the passive-aggressive press conference and red carpet at the Venice Film Festival. It is much less challenging to wrap your mind around the warm mystery central to this one. Stepford Wivespsychological thriller; after all, even its trailer plays like reheated leftovers. So much attention has been paid to Harry Styles’ performance, or lack thereof, that the horrific spec script written by Shane & Carey Van Dyke and reworked here by Wilde’s writing partner Katie Silberman has somehow completely escaped scrutiny. Silberman found and finished a decade-long Blacklist script for Wilde’s heartfelt, loving debut smart book, and so returned to the source to wrest this monstrosity from Dick Van Dyke’s grandchildren. The two brothers’ biggest project so far has been the small-budget horror Chernobyl Diaries, but far more enlightening are Shane Van Dyke’s writing credits on Asylum hit movies like Changelings 2: Fall of Man. That context makes perfect sense, as Wilde, with Silberman’s help, took this D-level material, put a coat of paint and star power on it, and cranked it up two whole grades, delivering an image best rated as a B24 film.
Things aren’t quite so bleak at first, which finds our cast of characters playing a raucous drinking game, a Ray Charles record singing on a turntable, and the camera weaving and ducking like a giddy party boy. This opening can even be easily confused with a little quarantine revelry a la O Tsugua’s diaries. Inspired fragments like this one call back the free-flowing energy of smart book, and serve as vital reminders of how actress and director Wilde — whose indulgent self-scale here borders on aggravating — garnered so much buzz and goodwill in the first place. The time period is ambiguous at first, but we soon discover that the setting is a mysterious dead-end desert in the 1950s, with husbands rushing to work in their colorful Corvettes and Pontiacs, leaving their wives to say goodbye to perfectly manicured lawns. It’s all a cascade of clichés, which have been done and done and done before, much like the breakfast of bacon, egg, and coffee that Wilde uses to mark each passing day with a superficial flurry of dynamic cuts, of course. Through it all, we’re introduced to Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles), a couple who seem to have things sorted out, at least juxtaposed with friends Bunny (Olivia Wilde) and Dean (Nick Kroll), whose brand of banter suggests some well-worn resentments. First, let’s get one thing straight: the million-dollar issue of Harry Styles’ transition to film after his successful appearance in Dunkirk, remains open. Yes, his performance here is tough, and he and Pugh lack the chemistry the narrative suggests they do, but the only people able to make the stilted script work are Wilde and Kroll, whose roles are largely comedic. Any serious performance, from Pugh to Pine, struggles with these limitations. Take, for example, the luminous KiKi Layne, the emotional core of If Beale Street Could Talk, that absolutely sounds like wood delivering dead weight like, “Why are we here? We shouldn’t be here!” It’s a ridiculously direct and obvious line, but it serves as the film’s thesis.
This question of “Why are we here?” sends Alice spiraling fast-forward, and much like watching a movie edited for television and interrupted by commercial breaks, we jump from composed and happy Florence Pugh to disheveled and tormented in the space of a few quick cuts. No one expected Wilde to deliver Jeanne Dielman, but the superficial treatment of the subject is here particularly pronounced. A more fitting juxtaposition would be the biggest influence of this film, The Stepford Wives (1975), known more as a shorthand reference at this point than an actual movie, but one that builds and shines on its quiet steps and grounded melancholy, until the abrupt final chapter. We spend enough time with her protagonist Joanna to get a full picture of her wants and needs and the tensions at play in her marriage. This film uses the high stakes of its fantasy to elevate the typical push-and-pull compromises women are pressured to make under the weight of patriarchal expectations as it scales the drama to its dire conclusion. Do not worry, dear there’s only a scene or two that hint at it, and they’re easily the best in the movie, by far the simplest, and you’ll know them the second you see them. Unfortunately, this is not enough. Pugh carried the brunt of emotionally difficult jobs like Lady Macbeth and Summer Solstice with apparent ease, but the dearth of character development is a very heavy burden, even for an artist of his caliber. And so, she’s left only to push herself with unshakable determination against the wall of an uncompromising script and Wilde’s authoritative aesthetic.
At the very least, there’s a silver lining to Wilde’s cornucopia of visual reference, and this directing philosophy of throwing everything but the kitchen sink can occasionally hit the mark. Notable highlights include Busby Berkley’s dance numbers, a scene in which the walls close in and press Alice against the glass until she hears a noise, and one that finds her casually cracking empty eggshells with such grace; these transcend their lead metaphors to be striking and memorable sequels in their own right, and they stick with you in surprising ways. On the other hand, the relentless score, with its whispering chant that hopes (and fails) to evoke the meaning of Pugh’s collapse in Summer Solstice it is combined with an endless parade of flashbacks that smother the film and any subtleties in its wake. The big reveal, which I’ve been avoiding all along, isn’t particularly satisfying or original, and Chris Pine, who plays the cult big bad, is so poorly served by the script that he can’t make this film’s compelling contrast. desperately need it to be. But also in all this disappointment is the bizarrely fitting dynamic between Alice and Bunny – do you believe mirrors are a motif in this movie? — which awkwardly resembles Pugh and Wilde’s real-life brawl, culminated in an outrageous final chase sequence that finally drags all the heavy-duty mess into camp and looks fun for the first time since the opening scene. And so we close with Pugh walking away from the mess as fast as he can, and Wilde filming the action as he prepares for his hilarious and predictable next step into the MCU. Looking back through the endless cycles of hype and gossip that paved the way for this moment, it’s bittersweet to see it all end with such a resounding thud. But hey, we’ll always have Venice.
Source : inreviewonline.com