Don’t Worry Darling, the upcoming movie from acclaimed Booksmart director Olivia Wilde, made its debut at the Venice Film Festival on Monday.
It’s a movie making headlines for all the wrong reasons. A movie mired in controversy, with rumors of bitter on-set rifts between Wilde and the movie’s star Florence Pugh. But before we delve into that, here’s everything you need to know about the movie itself.
What is Don’t Worry Darling about?
Don’t Worry Darling is a psychological thriller set in the 1950s. Jack Chambers (played by mega-popular singer Harry Styles) lives with his wife Alice (played by Pugh) in a company town in California. A mystery plays out when Alice begins to investigate the company her husband works for. Her investigation into the company’s “Victory Project” begins to tear at the fabric of their happy life.
OK, now to the stuff you actually care about.
What’s with the drama between the cast?
Where to begin? Don’t Worry Darling is a movie mired in controversy, from multiple angles. Let’s start with Shia LaBeouf.
LaBeouf was initially cast as Jack Chambers, but was quickly fired by Wilde and replaced by pop star Harry Styles after reported clashes on set.
Wilde discussed LaBeouf in a Variety profile.
“His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions,” Wilde explained. “He has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy, and I don’t personally believe that is conducive to the best performances. I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work.”
LaBeouf in turn claims he wasn’t fired, but quit, and sent Variety a video message from Wilde where she appears to be asking LaBeouf to come back to the set because she wasn’t “ready to give up on this yet.”
In the message Wilde appears to refer to conflict with Florence Pugh:
“You know, I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo,” Wilde says in the video, “and I want to know if you’re open to giving this a shot with me, with us. If she really commits, if she really puts her mind and heart into it at this point and if you guys can make peace — and I respect your point of view, I respect hers — but if you guys can do it, what do you think?”
This has led to folks online spiraling about a rumored rift between Olivia Wilde and her lead actress Florence Pugh. There are literally thousands of tweets and a broad online discourse with fans analyzing and agonizing over social media posts and body language in group shots of the cast. Wilde was asked about the rumored rift at a press conference for Don’t Worry Darling ahead of its screening at the Venice Film Festival.
“I can’t say enough how honored I am to have her as our lead,” Wilde said. “She’s amazing in the film and as for all the endless tabloid gossip and all the noise out there, I mean, the internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute, I think it’s sufficiently well nourished.”
But on Monday the internet went especially feral over any and all interactions between members of the cast at the press conference and the movie showing itself. Folks are debating every single micro interaction between the stars of the movie, from the seating order, to reactions to questions at the press conference. Social media is currently in meltdown over one wild theory: that Harry Styles actually secretly spat at his co-star, Chris Pine, before the movie’s showing at the Venice Film Festival.
People are going over this short piece of footage with a fine-tooth comb. (After close examination I am absolutely of the opinion Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine because that would be insane.)
There are other elements to the story. A relationship between Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde is reported to have begun during the filming of Don’t Worry Darling. Olivia Wilde was previously married to Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis and was recently served, what is reported to be custody papers live on stage at Cinema-Con in Las Vegas.
When can I watch Don’t Worry Darling?
Don’t Worry Darling just made its debut at the Venice Film Festival, but won’t be available to watch in the US until Sept. 23 in the US.
What do reviews of the movie say?
Early reviews for the movie have been mixed so far. At time of writing the movie is sitting at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes and 49 on CNET sister site Metacritic. Those are low scores, especially considering Wilde’s first movie, Booksmart, released in 2019, was universally adored by critics.
Most reviews seem to consider the movie a little undercooked. Critic Hannah Strong called it “fairly rote and unimaginative” and Justin Chang from the Los Angeles Times said its failure is “primarily one of imagination.”
It is worth noting, however, that the movie received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival and that Florence Pugh’s performance in the movie has been roundly praised by critics and those who watched the movie at the festival.