Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry, Baby” – immaculately polished and obsessively glossy – is a film about the danger of dreams. But the movie is also kind of a mirror image of itself. If you look closely, she turns over, inclines to her imagination and returns only reluctantly and belatedly to the tender requirements of commercial reality.
Even if you somehow avoided all the hype for the movie, the pop culture reference points should already be clear.
The film begins, with little effort to direct you, in the small desert town of Victory, California, in the 1950s. Alice Chambers (Florence Beau) is a devoted housewife. Her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), works on Project Victory with all the other men in the neighborhood under the supervision of a smiling Frank (Chris Pine). The Chambers’ life seems idyllic. They have all the material luxuries they could want, lots of friendly neighbors and a passionate romance. But Alice begins with strange visions and flashbacks. And when she begins to ask questions about what the Victory Project actually is, her perfect cozy world begins to unravel.
Even if you somehow avoided all the hype for the movie, the pop culture reference points should already be clear. Screenwriter Katie Silberman gets involved “Stepford Wives” and an abundance of Philip K. Dick’s adaptations and thefts, from “Total Recall” to “The Truman Show” to “WandaVision”. Victory, The City, is a retro fantasy of feminine intimacy and masculine professionalism. Frank constantly tells his followers that their work will “change the world,” and women are urged to support their unquestioning husbands in pursuit of this mysterious but admirable goal. Alice slowly realizes that her happiness and relationship are traps as the town begins to grow strange tumors of the unreal. The third chapter is the escape rush. Alice finally gets rid of fantasy to seize empowerment and her true self.
This is a fairly familiar novel, and critics were not particularly impressed. The film had a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of publication. But the film is only lightly interested in its vulgar narrative. Coming into reality and realizing oneself is a chore and is stuffed into the last half hour of the movie as a commitment rather than an achievement. This is a Hollywood movie with famous actors. It must have a blueprint and a resolution. It can’t be “Eraserhead”.
But Wilde would certainly prefer to make an “Eraserhead” – if you could dress up an “Eraserhead” in gorgeous gowns and spotless retro decor. The suspense thriller is supposed to build suspense through careful escalation of detail and discovery. But happily, that’s not how the phrase “don’t worry, baby” works. Instead, things feel almost instantaneously, narrative cycles spinning around and going wrong without ever going anywhere, like movie dream sequences of cabaret dancers arranged in a circle kicking their legs before turning into an expanding eye image.
Rather than a Hollywood racing plot, this looks more like a stiflingly chic art movie, suspended in its own obsessions.
Injustice is nauseating and frightening. Alice sees visions of violence and gets lost in her head as Jack suggests that she is crazy. As in The Nightmare, she finds herself drawn to the same paranoid scenarios. She’s at a party where everyone is having a great time, but she’s getting more and more sad. She begs Jack to leave, but he either leaves her or does not listen to her. Rather than a Hollywood racing plot, this looks more like a stiflingly chic art movie, suspended in its own obsessions — or like one of the images of a Douglas Circus woman, plunging into an ornate, enveloping home life.
This apparent aura of dread makes the movie feel like a horror movie, not a thriller. But as with many horror movies, creepy weirdness isn’t just horror; It is an aesthetic pleasure. Wilde’s footage is strikingly framed. The 1950s soundtrack was carefully orchestrated. Sircian saturated clothes and colors practically drip with sensuality. Infamous sex scenes are almost entirely centered on female pleasure. In one, Alice lies on a table laden with food, knocking piece by piece on the floor until the table is clean and symmetrical under her ruffled dress. Sexual gratification and aesthetic clarity are the same thing.
There was a lot of gossip about the tension between Wilde and Florence Pugh on set. If anything, it doesn’t seem to have affected performance. Pugh conveys blissful serenity and weary confusion with equal conviction; Its ingenuity justifies Wilde’s poetic opposition to the narrative, and vice versa. Harry Styles (as an actor, at least) is a zombie. Pugh outruns him so completely and effectively that it’s hard to even look at him when they’re on screen together. But that is certainly the point. The love affair between Jack and Alice fades into irrelevance as a director and leads them to spin and float together in a sunny suburb built like a skull.
The film’s strength lies in exploring that skull, not escaping from it. It’s a movie that I think will stand up to repeated scenes, but even my first time around, there is a wealth of great detail. I think my favorite scene is one where Alice is in the bathtub after a mental health crisis, and Jack tells her he wants to think about having children. I was literally paralyzed. When he leaves, you look in the mirror, then drowsy. But her reflection lingers for a split second after she’s underwater, a version of herself she can’t leave behind – or who won’t let her go.
Compared to this gifted play of image, self, and meaning, the scenes that tell us what “really” is going on are lousy and boring, lacking in the glamor and subtlety that make the bulk of the movie so interesting to watch. It is the fake world that deeply embraces the potential of the film. The real world looks like a ghostly and unsaturated reflection.
You could argue that Wilde shows the allure of an upper-middle-class 1950s environment, with every sex in its place and a house stuffed with rotten eggs and other material things. But the director also seems to be fond of creating, building textures, characters and dreams for their own benefit. “Don’t Worry, Baby” is a movie that airy cautions you to beware of illusions even as it basks in the movie’s power to deliberately create a world unconstrained by reality. A film that deceives in the direction of interpreting a woman’s reality in order to embrace a woman’s imagination may be too particular to achieve critical or commercial success in the short term. But I think he will eventually find his audience.
Source : www.nbcnews.com