While Don’t Worry Darling disappointed critics with a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes (at the time of writing), the months of drama surrounding the movie delivered. Unfortunately, it was not so much on the cast’s performance as it was on the cast itself, in most cases.
For the record, Hollywood drama tends to be fueled by tabloids out to make a buck, but the sensational stories on the cast of the movie have fans wondering if director Olivia Wilde created the media circus on purpose—the way Nick Kroll, one of the starring actors, claims he did. In that case, Wilde deserves an Oscar for the performance.
I think each cast member deserves their moment, so let’s go through some key personalities in no particular order and see the drama they gave us on and off the screen.
Notably absent from the premiere, Kiki Layne is someone who deserves more attention. Despite playing a pivotal character for the storyline (as Margaret), she allegedly had many scenes cut, according to her Instagram post which stoked drama and caused hate to be spewed at Wilde from fans online.
I wonder if any of the cut scenes could have helped improve the suspense in the movie, which opens with the protagonist Alice looking all cheerful. Audiences are not clued in that Alice is in a dire circumstance and neither is Alice herself. Margaret’s role is crucial in revealing what is truly happening with Alice but her involvement could have been expanded. Those cut scenes could have given us those missing pieces.
Speaking of missing pieces, this is a man at the centre of the drama but not even in the movie.
LaBeouf was originally to be part of the movie but then backed out, later replaced by Harry Styles. Having happened in 2020, this could have easily been forgotten (much like the movie would’ve been without the media circus). But when he wound up in a lawsuit a few months later, director Olivia Wilde spread rumours that she had fired LaBeouf. These claims were rebutted by LaBeouf’s side, saying he had left the project due to other cast members’ lack of availability.
This movie would have had such a different vibe if LaBeouf had stayed on. I don’t believe it would have done as well at the box office, but the acting would have been… different.
When I say the acting would have been different, I mean better. Harry Styles, the replacement for LaBeouf, had no reaction behind his sweet eyes while saying lines. I actually chuckled during dramatic scenes because of Styles’s performance.
Despite my (obvious) dislike for the casting, fans rejoiced at Styles’s first big movie role when the singer was announced to be joining the project in September 2020. However, unlike Elvis, he didn’t take well to screen. Fans of One Direction were likely the only ones who weren’t shocked at some of Styles’s interviews where he proudly proclaimed that the movie he just starred in “felt like a movie.”
But the main controversy was not about his interviews or lousy acting. Not even that he was rumoured to have he spat on Chris Pine. No, it was his whirlwind affair with director Olivia Wilde.
The first time Styles and Wilde were seen out together as a couple was January 2021, just a month after Wilde announced a split from her husband Jason Sudeikis. The worst parts about this are the heavily speculated overlap of relationships and questionable behaviours of a director. After all, the filming didn’t wrap up until the next month. To make matters even more dramatic, Styles seemed to have intentionally ignored his supposed (and now long-term) girlfriend at the September 2022 Venice Film Festival premiere.
Do I believe any of these rumours? I think I believe what I can see, like the fact that Harry Styles should stick to singing.
Director Olivia Wilde put the character played by herself at the centre of the movie (albeit unnecessarily)—and herself at that of all the controversy.
In the film, her character Bunny is the best friend of the protagonist Alice. Bunny shares many anecdotes and funny moments that don’t move the story along. She also drops a bombshell secret near the movie’s end that had me questioning her involvement altogether. Unfortunately, the last twenty minutes of this movie truly ruin everything, and it seemed to have omitted from certain plot points the characters who should have been there.
Where Wilde shone was outside the movie. Although I am sure that many of these feuds do not exist, Wilde caused a media frenzy by dating Harry Styles. This is something many male directors have done without creating the same media circus.
One thing we do know that’s not just a rumour is how Wilde was served divorce papers by a representative of Jason Sudeikis (with whom she shares two children). This occurred while she was on stage at CinemaCon in April 2021. She took to social media to share her devastation and humiliation.
Rumours surrounding movie star Pugh (playing protagonist Alice) were mainly about how she did not promote the film because of disagreements with Wilde. While some of these feuds have been disputed by cast and crew, we do know that Pugh was quoted as saying, “When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it. It’s not why I’m in this industry” (Cuttler 2022).
For context, it’s believed she said this after Wilde hollered about how Don’t Worry Darling is a female sex-positive movie saying “Men don’t come in this film, only women here!” (Zemler 2022). She explained that sex was integral to the story and that they rarely see female pleasure in film. Which, although possibly true, Pugh took offence to. Honestly, after watching the movie and knowing the twist, I also take offence to it. How would you feel if you knew that part of the twist is that nothing happening to (most of) the women in the film is consensual?
An upside is that Pugh’s character never disappoints and absolutely captivates. But her phenomenal acting does not save the film, as she is paired with a man who cannot act.
Although the movie is filled with primarily renowned actors, Chris Pine was one of the only actors given the time to go toe to toe with Pugh. Playing “cultish” leader Frank, he is confident, sinister, and a bit confusing for the role. Frank is a character based on Canadian author Jordan Peterson, a well-known hero to incels (people who are involuntarily celibate). This is a role that Pine seems almost unbelievable in, which is why his character sometimes seems disconnected. I don’t know if we are supposed to know he is an incel throughout the movie, but clues throughout would’ve made it an easier pill to swallow.
As for Pine, doing interviews for the movie didn’t seem like an easy pill to swallow, either. He appeared to be having none of it when he had to listen to questions thrown at an unprepared Styles. This annoyance probably helped rumours spread that Styles spat on Pine at the Venice Film Festival, which he (and everyone but Nick Kroll) adamantly denies.
All we know about Gemma’s character Shelley is she teaches ballet to the other ladies of the community and that she is the wife of Pine’s character. Her involvement in the movie is confusing and we are given no insight until the shocking (and honestly, out-of-character) moment at the end, which left me guessing how many of her scenes were cut from the movie.
Nick Kroll is an actor who gets a lot of screen time for someone who managed to largely stay out of the drama, so much so that people didn’t know he was in the movie and were confused about why he was at the premiere. Kroll plays his character quite well, and although the ending is confusing (thanks, but no thanks, to the confession from his character’s wife Bunny), his character manages to hold up. Kroll, in real life, also finally manages to insert himself into the drama at the Venice Film Festival by kissing Styles after the premiere. This is probably one of the more wholesome moments to happen with this cast, despite controversy.
Now, I would love for you to still see Don’t Worry Darling. It is amusing enough, and you just might enjoy it all the more because of all the old Hollywood gossip, drama, and controversy (as well as my brutally honest review). Plus, it may be one of the only times you will get to see Harry Styles in a leading role, if critics have anything to do with it. As for Olivia Wilde, she should get another directing job if studios think she can in any way replicate this nightmare.
Carras, Christi. 2022. “No Worries, ‘Darling,’ KiKi Layne Is ‘Thriving’ after Being Cut from Most of Film.” Los Angeles Times. September 26, 2022. latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-09-26/kiki-layne-dont-worry-darling-cut-ariel-stachel.
Cuttler, Andrea. 2022. “Florence Pugh Is Just Being Honest.” Harper’s BAZAAR. August 16, 2022.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a40772062/florence-pugh-dont-worry-darling-interview/.
Davis, Elizabeth Wagmeister, Clayton, Elizabeth Wagmeister, and Clayton Davis. 2020. “Inside Shia LaBeouf’s Career Meltdown after Sexual Battery Lawsuit.” Variety. December 24, 2020. variety.com/2020/film/news/shia-labeouf-career-abuse-allegations-1234874581/.
Lattanzio, Ryan. 2022. “Warner Bros. Heads Deny Report They’re Unhappy with Olivia Wilde’s ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Press Tour.” IndieWire. September 23, 2022. indiewire.com/2022/09/dont-worry-darling-warner-bros-denies-report-1234766288/.
Mendez, Moises. 2022. “The Controversy behind ‘Don’t Worry Darling,’ Explained.” Time. September 6, 2022. time.com/6209311/dont-worry-darling-controversy/.
Nathan, Sara. 2022. “Florence Pugh Unhappy over Olivia Wilde-Harry Styles Affair, Source Says.” Page Six. July 30, 2022. pagesix.com/2022/07/30/florence-pugh-upset-over-olivia-wilde-harry-styles-affair/.
Sharf, Zack. 2022. “Chris Pine’s ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Character Is Based on Jordan Peterson, a ‘Hero to the Incel Community.’” Variety. September 2, 2022. variety.com/2022/film/news/chris-pine-dont-worry-darling-character-jordan-peterson-incel-hero-1235358212/.
Wagmeister, Elizabeth. 2022. “Olivia’s Wilde Ride: Directing ‘Don’t Worry Darling,’ Making Harry Styles a Movie Star and Being ‘Blown the F— Away’ by Florence Pugh.” Variety. August 24, 2022. variety.com/2022/film/features/olivia-wilde-harry-styles-sex-scenes-dont-worry-darling-1235347929/.
Zemler, Emily. 2022. “Nick Kroll Takes Credit for ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Drama on ‘Fallon’: ‘I’m the Puppeteer.’” Rolling Stone. September 27, 2022. rollingstone.com/tv-movies/tv-movie-news/nick-kroll-dont-worry-darling-drama-fallon-1234600557/.
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