"Don't Worry Baby" review: Burning Dollhouse

“Don’t Worry Baby” review: Burning Dollhouse

Director Olivia Wilde quickly slipped into her hand the candy-colored feminist gothic “Don’t Worry, Baby.” The movie is set in a desert town, Victory, where everything looks nice and beautiful, including the mid-century homes at the end of a dead end. It’s a friendly neighborhood, and given that the story is set in the 1950s, it’s more diverse than you might expect. But Wilde immediately informs you that there is something in here: everything is so organized, so uniform, and perfect, too, including the smiles of the women.

Shy, bold, coquettish or sarcastic, a woman’s smile signifies richness, something that Wilde, the actress turned director, definitely knows. It can be a mystery, an invitation, an aberration; Sometimes it’s a bonus, although it comes with a cost. “It is the smile of the Sleeping Beauty that crowns Prince Charming’s efforts,” writes Simone de Beauvoir in “The Second Sex,” and the captive princess’s gratitude validates the prince’s heroism. The men in the movie are neither charming nor heroic, yet the women are constantly smiling, extending their lipsticked mouths wide, it’s a wonder their faces aren’t broken.

One does, although it takes a long time for cracks to become seismic. Something starts to bother Alice (Florence Pugh) shortly after the movie opens. She lives on the cul-de-sac and, like the other wives, waves goodbye to her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), as he drives to work. At night, in hand a cocktail, he is greeted by Alice, an elegantly wrapped gift and he wears his eagerly unwrapped clothes. Most of the time left, she cleans, polishes, vacuums and washes their house—the cinematography is appropriately bright and crisp—to the sound of the mysterious man’s voice.

It is a good and interesting setup. Everything has been polished to shine, including Wilde, who plays Rabbit, one of Alice’s neighbors. But you soon notice the lack of chaos, especially the relative absence of these customers of chaos, also known as children. There’s a Stepford touch to this glamorous happy place, and a dash of comedy in its excesses. But it’s straightforward, and early on when the wives wave goodbye it all follows a similar choreography, lit up on the sinister planet in Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time, where everything–houses, adults, children–bouncing balls–looks eerily identical. .

Apparently Alice has landed in a strange rabbit hole. But one of the problems with “Don’t Worry, Baby” is that Wilde is so taken with the world that she has so meticulously created it – with her colorful crust, martini glasses and James Bond sticker – that she can’t let her go. So, while Alice floats through her dream life, Wilde reviews this dollhouse, transporting the character to a country club, on a wagon and visiting Jack’s charismatic boss, Frank (silly menacing Chris Pine), whose home looks like a celibate and a pillow from an old version. From Playboy, except that this version comes with a wife, Shelley (Gemma Chan).

Frank and his male staff’s intense respect for him suggests that this is more of this world than his shiny exterior, as is some of the inappropriate details of the period, such as the topless woman walking poolside in public and Alice wearing a formal shirt only outside her front door. But even as the dissonance builds and Alice realizes that something is wrong, the movie stops. Alice gets lost in thought, looks baffled, hallucinates, looks less bewildered, and so when Wilde embraces a visual idea – the circle – which, after the second, third, and fourth time you publish it, loses its power and usefulness, and becomes unintentional. A metaphor for a movie that keeps going back to the same point.

Wilde does some great work here, although he makes the same notes early and often. (The script is written by “Booksmart” co-creator Katie Silberman, and is Wilde’s most successful debut feature.) But she’s not a strong enough filmmaker at this point to navigate around the story’s weaknesses, let alone transcend them. This is especially hard on actors, who – with the exception of Pine – give off one-dimensional performances that never hint at what might be churning inside their charismatic heads. For her part, Pugh is very lively, very lively, and aggressively plump from the start for a role that calls for a slow wake-up.

If Pugh has never performed under the glossy, cynical surface, it’s because there’s nowhere for him or her to go. The film’s take on gender roles is scathing, but its goals are amorphous (yes, agreed, sexism he is bad) and carefully non-partisan, and her incarceration for a traditional female role—what Betty Friedan called the “happy housewife heroine” in her 1963 classic The Female Mystery—is shallow. Many cycles of feminist advances and sexual backlash have occurred since this book came out, but the current political climate and assaults on women’s rights demand, fair or unfairly, more than a clever blend of “Mad Men” and “Get Out.”

do not worry my love
Rated R for Sex, Language, and Violence. Show duration: two hours and two minutes. in theatres.

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