The saying goes that all press is good press, but how true can that be if alleged drama surrounding a film overshadows the merits of the film itself? Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling is the second movie to fall into this trap this summer, though it does manage to still bring on the thrills, mostly thanks to another potent performance from Florence Pugh. Her range is on full display as Alice, a 1950s housewife who begins to suspect that her husband’s company is up to something sinister within their utopian community. Alice, her husband, Jack (a dull but good enough Harry Styles), and all the company employees along with their wives live isolated from the rest of the world, hardly able to remember their lives from before they arrived. The only rule is that they stay within the company town, where they’re safe. Chris Pine delivers a disturbing performance that’s part televangelist and part cult leader, totally nailing that brand of big, inspiring speeches that seem poignant in delivery but are empty when you actually listen to the words being said.
Piecing together what’s actually going on in this seemingly idyllic community proves tougher than expected, which primes for a tense twist in the final act, and the film’s introductory scenes are truly creepy as Alice begins to question her sanity, the world, and the people around her. The issue is in the middle: once Alice is convinced that something is wrong, the movie ought to pick up the pace to maintain momentum. Instead, it drudges on with a shot-by-shot repetitiveness that’s likely intentional but ends up being ineffective. There’s even a pump-fake twist and by this point, you’re begging for the real reveal to be, well, revealed. When the truth finally does come out, the explanation is interesting but flimsy, and after waiting so long to find out, it’s unsatisfying. Ultimately, Don’t Worry Darling boasts a (mostly) talented cast with a strong start but can’t follow through on its promises. R, 122 min.