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The Evolution of Fall Guys Games: From Indie Darling to Global Phenomenon
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, developed by Mediatonic and published by Devolver Digital, burst onto the gaming scene in August 2020 and quickly became a global phenomenon. This colorful battle royale game took the world by storm with its whimsical gameplay and charming characters. But how did Fall Guys games evolve from being an indie darling to a global sensation? In this article, we will explore the fascinating journey of Fall Guys games and their rise to prominence.
The Birth of an Indie Darling
When Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was first released, it was met with immense praise from both players and critics alike. The game’s unique blend of platforming, obstacle courses, and mini-games captured the hearts of millions. Its simple yet addictive gameplay made it accessible to players of all ages and skill levels.
One of the key factors that contributed to Fall Guys’ success as an indie darling was its vibrant visuals and adorable bean-like characters. The game’s bright colors and playful design added a sense of fun and whimsy that resonated with players. Additionally, the developers actively engaged with their community through social media platforms, fostering a sense of connection between the game’s creators and its fans.
Fall Guys games truly became a global phenomenon when they went viral on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok. Players started sharing hilarious clips of their epic wins or embarrassing failures in the game, which quickly gained traction online. Memes featuring Fall Guys characters flooded the internet, further fueling its popularity.
The viral nature of Fall Guys games created a snowball effect that propelled it into mainstream consciousness. Celebrities and popular streamers started playing the game live on platforms like Twitch, attracting even more attention from fans around the world. The combination of social media buzz and high-profile endorsements helped solidify Fall Guys’ position as a must-play game.
Collaborations and Crossover Events
To keep the momentum going, the developers of Fall Guys games began collaborating with other popular franchises and hosting crossover events. These collaborations introduced new skins, costumes, and levels inspired by beloved characters from other games and pop culture icons. From Sonic the Hedgehog to Godzilla, each collaboration brought a fresh wave of excitement to the Fall Guys community.
These collaborations not only attracted new players but also created a sense of nostalgia and familiarity for existing fans. The ability to dress up their Fall Guy as their favorite character from another franchise added an extra layer of personalization and fun to the game.
Expanding Beyond Gaming
Fall Guys games have transcended the gaming industry and made their mark in other forms of media as well. Merchandise such as plush toys, clothing, and accessories featuring Fall Guys characters have become highly sought after by fans. The game has also inspired fan art, cosplay, and even fan-made animations on platforms like YouTube.
Furthermore, Fall Guys games have become a staple in online streaming tournaments and esports events. Its lighthearted nature and competitive gameplay make it an ideal game for both casual players and professional gamers alike. This further solidifies its status as a global phenomenon that continues to captivate audiences across different mediums.
In conclusion, the evolution of Fall Guys games from being an indie darling to a global phenomenon is a testament to its unique gameplay, engaging community interaction, viral marketing tactics, exciting collaborations, and expansion into different forms of media. As we eagerly await future updates and developments in the Fall Guys universe, one thing is certain – this whimsical battle royale game has left an indelible mark on the gaming industry.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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Every lamp and ladylike cocktail dress, every convertible and clink of a martini glass is a perfect reflection of retro chic in Olivia Wilde ’s “Don’t Worry Darling.”
Who wouldn’t want to live in the suburban Shangri-la of Victory, with its minimalist, mid-century modern homes and bawdy, booze-soaked dinner parties? Young, attractive families find their every want and need fulfilled under the idyllic shimmer of the Southern California sun.
But something’s not quite right here. That much is clear to us early on, and that nagging suspicion increasingly gnaws at Florence Pugh ’s perky party girl, Alice. Sure, shopping all afternoon with her fellow housewives is fun, as is having her handsome husband, Jack, come home from a long day at work and service her on the dining room table before he’s even taken a bite of the roast and mashed potatoes. (We’ll come back to Harry Styles , and his many talents and challenges, in a bit.)
The revelation of what that something is, though, results in such a shrug of annoyance and disappointment that it very nearly ruins the entire experience in retrospect. I may have groaned audibly, “Ugh, really? That’s it?” at a recent press screening. Discovering what’s actually going on raises more questions than it answers, and it shines a harsh light on the half-baked notions in the script from Katie Silberman . She also wrote Wilde’s directorial debut, the delightfully raunchy comedy “ Booksmart ,” which had a focus and an emotional authenticity that are lacking in this thriller.
“Don’t Worry Darling” aims to explore the tyranny of the patriarchy, disguised as domestic bliss. This is not a new idea, but then again, there aren’t many new ideas here. You can see the various pieces being pulled together from better source material—a bit of “The Stepford Wives,” a whole lot of “Mad Men,” and a bunch of movies that would serve as spoilers to list them. Watching Pugh once again function as the clear-eyed voice of reason—and watching her get gaslit when she tries to warn everyone about the sinister undercurrents within a joyful setting—also brings to mind her visceral work in “ Midsommar ,” one of the key performances that signaled to the world she’s one of the finest young actresses of her generation. When will people finally learn to listen to Florence Pugh???
She is indeed a powerhouse, which makes it that much more glaringly obvious that Styles was not yet ready for this assignment. As an actor, he’s a terrific pop star. Granted, his character is meant to be empty and pretty, and he definitely looks the part with his slim suits and sleek, angular features. The camera loves him. But when it comes time for him to summon the emotional depth he needs for his more intense scenes opposite Pugh, he’s distractingly outmatched. (Interestingly, Shia LaBeouf was first cast in the role, but it’s hard to imagine him here as the earnest, young company man on the rise. His presence is too forceful, too unsettling.)
Styles’ appeal at least fits the premise of “Don’t Worry Darling,” in which a select group of forward-thinking families has moved to a planned Palm Springs community to create their own society in the mid-1950s. “It’s a different way. A better way,” Gemma Chan ’s glamorous Shelley assures her guests at one of the movie’s many soirees. Her husband is the town’s founder, Frank, and he’s played with the devious purr of a self-satisfied cult leader by Chris Pine .
Every day is the same, and that’s meant to be the allure. The men leave for work in the morning, lunchboxes in hand, on the way to top-secret jobs at the Victory Project, which they can’t discuss with their wives. The wives, meanwhile, send them off with a kiss before embarking on a day of vacuuming and bathtub scrubbing, then perhaps a dance class, and definitely some day drinking. Wilde herself plays Alice’s next-door neighbor and best friend, Bunny, with cat-eye makeup and a conspiratorial grin. She brings some enjoyable swagger and humor to this increasingly creepy world.
But little by little, Alice begins to question her reality. Her anxiety evolves from jittery paranoia to legitimate terror the more she discovers about this place, and Pugh makes it all palpable. Images come to her in impressionistic wisps and nightmares that startle her awake in the dark. In time, Wilde relies too heavily on these visuals: black-and-white clips of Busby Berkeley-style dancers, or close-ups of eyeballs. They grow repetitive and wearying rather than disturbing. The heavy-handed score from John Powell becomes more insistent and plodding, telling us how to feel at every turn. Whatever you’re thinking might be at play here, it’s probably more imaginative than what it turns out to be.
Once Alice finds the courage to confront Frank about her suspicions, though, it results in the film’s most powerful scene. Pugh and Pine verbally circle and jab at each other. Their chemistry crackles. Each is the other’s equal in terms of precision and technique. Finally, there’s real tension. More of this, please.
What’s ironic is that Frank and Shelley’s mantra for their worshipful citizens is one of control: the importance of keeping chaos at bay, of maintaining symmetry and unity, of living and working as one. But as “Don’t Worry Darling” reaches its climactic and unintentionally hilarious conclusion, Wilde loses her grasp on the material. The pacing is a little erratic throughout, but she rushes to uncover the ultimate mystery with a massive exposition dump that’s both dizzying and perplexing.
The craft on display is impeccable, though, from the gleaming cinematography from Matthew Libatique ( Darren Aronofsky ’s usual collaborator) to the flawless production design from Katie Byron to the to-die-for costumes from Arianne Phillips . The excellent work of all those behind-the-scenes folks and others at least makes “Don’t Worry Darling” consistently watchable, all the way up to its non-ending of an ending. Let’s just say you’ll have questions afterward, and those post-movie conversations will probably be more thoughtful and stimulating than the movie itself.
Now playing in theaters.
Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for RogerEbert.com since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .
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Don't Worry Darling (2022)
Rated R for sexuality, violent content and language.
Florence Pugh as Alice Chambers
Harry Styles as Jack Chambers
Chris Pine as Frank
Olivia Wilde as Bunny
Gemma Chan as Shelley
KiKi Layne as Margaret
Nick Kroll as Dean
Kate Berlant as Peg
Douglas Smith as Bill
Asif Ali as Peter
- Olivia Wilde
- Katie Silberman
- Carey Van Dyke
- Shane Van Dyke
- Matthew Libatique
- Affonso Gonçalves
- John Powell
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Don't Worry Darling Reviews
Despite great chemistry between Pine and Pugh and amazing production & costume design, the obvious and nonsensical plot and Harry Styles' unconvincing performance ultimately sinks the film. Also: Why is this 2 hours long?!
Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Nov 23, 2023
There is a great film in the bones of the one we are presented with, one that is neater and more compact and doesn’t struggle with the internal logic it presents.
Full Review | Sep 17, 2023
An array of half-baked ideas that add up to nothing much more than a world of mirages.
Full Review | Original Score: D | Jul 29, 2023
The ample running time clocks in at just over two hours, and there is no doubt that Don’t Worry Darling would be improved with at least 15 fewer minutes of the simmering dread...
Full Review | Jul 27, 2023
Don't Worry Darling isn’t a bad psychological thriller. It merely crumbles under the weight of its own mediocrity.
Full Review | Jul 25, 2023
a puzzle box of a movie with an engaging premise that dives into themes of control. Florence Pugh is INCREDIBLE, Harry Styles holds his own, & Olivia Wilde really ups her game as a director here… but left wanting more from the film
If this was expected to be a groundbreaking comment on feminism, then it missed the mark by a long shot.
Don’t Worry Darling is ultimately a film about a woman who tries her best to free herself from a reality controlled by whiny, narcissistic men who’d rather take the easy way out than have a conversation and face their issues.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Jul 25, 2023
There are worse movies than Don’t Worry Darling, and there are certainly better ones too. Some thrillers are better able to blend science fiction and shocking twists with dazzling imagery, and others manage to drop the ball more. Ultimately, it's fine.
Full Review | Jul 24, 2023
Olivia Wilde's dystopian thriller is a lovely poison, meaning that while it's beautiful on the surface, it's disorienting and head-scratching underneath – mostly because of that twist.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/5 | Jul 21, 2023
"Don't Worry Darling" has many imperfections, but it shows that Wilde can do more than indie comedies, and that she is willing to take on daunting projects.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Jul 16, 2023
The plotting is completely incoherent and balanced atop a trembling tower of absurdities.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jan 17, 2023
Pugh, Styles, and Pine pour themselves into their roles... grinds to a halt in the third act when we get the presumed twist... it defies logic no one would take it farther. A captivating idea whose explanation rips you out of it.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4 | Dec 28, 2022
DON’T WORRY DARLING is a poisoned fairy tale, and is a story of the reclamation of the self that is thrilling, beautiful, and thematically on the mark. It’s so on the mark, in fact, that it’s liable to make people angry, especially men.
Full Review | Dec 28, 2022
All the same, Wilde’s film has its wins, mostly in how sharp-eyed it manages to be about the violent insistence of conservative male fantasias.
Full Review | Dec 23, 2022
The set-up is so well handled that it’s aggravating when Wilde reveals the twist — which I won’t here, because of “spoilers” and because if I start lamenting where it goes wrong, I may never stop.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4 | Dec 11, 2022
[It's] a good-looking movie, and it has its moments, but overall, I felt like the "1950s-type-suburbia-are-hiding-something-sinister" theme was just too shopworn.
The script's structure (and Wilde's direction) is quite good. I just wish it was in service of having something more to say since its abruptness ultimately prevents it from having to say anything.
Full Review | Original Score: 6/10 | Dec 9, 2022
Hollow and disappointing.
Full Review | Dec 6, 2022
All style and little substance, Darling has nothing you haven’t already seen...
Full Review | Dec 5, 2022
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Review: Burning Down the Dollhouse
Florence Pugh plays a seemingly happy housewife whose world starts to crack apart in Olivia Wilde’s wobbly feminist gothic.
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By Manohla Dargis
Soon into the candy-colored feminist gothic “Don’t Worry Darling,” the director Olivia Wilde tips her hand. The movie takes place in a desert town, Victory, where everything looks nice and pretty, including the midcentury homes at the end of a cul-de-sac. It’s a friendly neighborhood and, given that the story is set in the 1950s, more diverse than you’d expect. But Wilde lets you know straightaway that there’s something off here: Everything is too tidy, too uniform and too, too perfect, including the women’s smiles.
Shy, bold, coquettish or mocking, a woman’s smile is richly signifying, something that Wilde, an actress turned director, certainly knows. It can be a mystery, an invitation, a deflection; sometimes it’s a reward, although one that comes with a cost. “It is the Sleeping Beauty’s smile that crowns the efforts of Prince Charming,” as Simone de Beauvoir writes in “ The Second Sex ,” the captive princess’ gratitude validating the prince’s heroism. The men in the movie aren’t charming or heroic, yet the women smile constantly, stretching their lipsticked mouths so wide, it’s a wonder their faces don’t crack.
One does, though it takes an interminably long time for the fissures to become seismic. Something starts troubling Alice (Florence Pugh) soon after the movie opens. She lives on the cul-de-sac, and like the other wives, she waves goodbye to her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), as he drives off to work. At night, cocktail in hand, Alice greets him, an impeccably coifed and dressed present that he eagerly unwraps. Much of the rest of the time, she cleans their house, polishing and vacuuming and washing — the cinematography is suitably bright and crisp — to the sound of a mystery man’s droning voice.
It’s a good, intriguing setup. Everything has been buffed to gleam, including Wilde, who plays Bunny, one of Alice’s neighbors. But you quickly notice the lack of mess, and especially the relative absence of those agents of chaos, a.k.a. children. There’s a touch of Stepford to this happy, shiny place, and a dash of comedy in its excesses. But it’s obvious and blunt, and early on when the wives wave bye, all following similar choreography, I flashed on the evil planet in Madeleine L’Engle’s novel “A Wrinkle in Time,” where everything — houses, adults and kids bouncing balls — looks eerily near-identical.
Alice has clearly tumbled down a weird rabbit hole. But one problem with “Don’t Worry Darling” is that Wilde is so taken with the world that she’s meticulously created — with its colorful veneer, martini glasses and James Bond poster — that she can’t let it go. So, as Alice floats through her dream-life, Wilde shows off this dollhouse, taking the character to a country club, onto a trolley and to visit Jack’s charismatic boss, Frank (a silkily menacing Chris Pine), whose home looks like a bachelor’s pad out of an antique issue of Playboy, except that this one comes with a wife, Shelley (Gemma Chan).
Frank and his male employees’ extreme deference to him suggest there’s more to this world than its glossy exterior, as do some period-inappropriate details, like the topless woman walking poolside in public and Alice wearing only a man’s dress shirt outside her front door. But even as the dissonance builds and Alice grasps that something is amiss, the movie stalls. Alice becomes lost in thought, looks puzzled, hallucinates, looks less puzzled and so on as Wilde embraces a visual motif — the circle — that, after the second, third, fourth time she deploys it, loses its punch and usefulness, becoming an unintended metaphor for a movie that keeps returning to the same point.
Wilde does some fine work here, despite hammering the same notes early and often. (The screenplay is by Katie Silberman, one of the writers of “ Booksmart ,” Wilde’s more successful feature directing debut.) But she isn’t a strong enough filmmaker at this point to navigate around the story’s weaknesses, much less transcend them. That’s especially tough on the actors, who — with the exception of Pine — deliver one-dimensional performances that never hint at what might be churning inside their attractive heads. For her part, Pugh is too vibrant, too alive and just too vigorously full-bodied from the get-go for a role that calls for a slow-dawning awakening.
If Pugh’s performance never gets beneath the shiny, satirical surface, it’s because there’s no place for it or her to go. The movie’s take on gender roles is stinging, but its targets are amorphous (yes, agreed, sexism is bad) and carefully nonpartisan, and its take on the prison-house of the traditional feminine role — what Betty Friedan called the “happy housewife heroine” in her 1963 classic “ The Feminine Mystique ” — is shallow. Many cycles of feminist progress and sexist backlash have happened since that book hit, but, fairly or not, the current political climate and assaults on women’s rights demand more than a clever mash-up between “Mad Men” and “Get Out.”
Don’t Worry Darling Rated R for sex, language and violence. Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes. In theaters.
Manohla Dargis has been the co-chief film critic of The Times since 2004. She started writing about movies professionally in 1987 while earning her M.A. in cinema studies at New York University, and her work has been anthologized in several books. More about Manohla Dargis
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Don’t Worry Darling review – Styles over substance
Florence Pugh is phenomenal in Olivia Wilde’s beautiful-looking Stepford Wives-like thriller. But the story barely holds together – ditto Harry Styles as the husband
O livia Wilde’s follow-up to her gleefully wayward directorial debut Booksmart has style to spare. From the honey-kissed sun-and-sand colour palette of sky blue and golden optimism to the costume work – a dream wardrobe of fitted 1950s cocktail dresses, accessorised with Brylcreemed boys in slick suits – the movie looks too good to be true. And that’s rather the point. If we’ve learned anything about 1950s picket fence perfection from American cinema, it’s that things are rarely quite as glossy and flawless as they initially seem.
Life in the utopian desert town of Victory, home to Alice (Florence Pugh) and her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), might be an endless circuit of martinis and potluck parties. But, as Alice begins to suspect, there is something a little off with this impeccably tailored community and its charismatic founder, Frank (Chris Pine). So far, so Stepford – it’s a serviceably pulpy thriller with a feminist subtext and, with its mysterious forbidden laboratory, a hint of sci-fi to come.
But the problem is that Wilde leans too heavily on surface and style, as a distraction from the fact that the story itself is riddled with inconsistencies and barely holds together. The same is true of Styles, who is too inexperienced as an actor to deliver the complexity that his role requires. He’s glassily superficial, giving a performance entirely untroubled by a hint of an interior life. In contrast, Pugh is phenomenal, throwing everything she has into her role and carrying large chunks of the film more or less single-handedly.
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Don't Worry Darling
While her husband leaves home everyday to work in a top secret facility, a young 1950s housewife begins to question her life when she notices strange behavior from the other wives in the nei... Read all While her husband leaves home everyday to work in a top secret facility, a young 1950s housewife begins to question her life when she notices strange behavior from the other wives in the neighborhood. While her husband leaves home everyday to work in a top secret facility, a young 1950s housewife begins to question her life when she notices strange behavior from the other wives in the neighborhood.
- Olivia Wilde
- Katie Silberman
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- Shane Van Dyke
- Florence Pugh
- Harry Styles
- 1K User reviews
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- 48 Metascore
- 10 wins & 17 nominations
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- Trivia Frank, the Victory Project's leader, is shown living in Kaufmann House, one of the most well-known mid-century homes in the world. Although the Kaufmann House's exterior has been shown at various times over the years in both film and TV, Don't Worry Darling is the first film to feature scenes shot on the property itself, including several peeks at its rarely seen interiors.
- Goofs When Frank is giving a speech in front of the band he holds the microphone like it was a modern mike. It is a Shure 55, which should be tilted back for usage. You speak into the front of that model, not the top.
Bunny : I choose this in here my children are still with me
Alice Chambers : They're not real
Bunny : But here they are
- Connections Featured in How Fight Scene Props Are Made for Movies & TV (2022)
- Soundtracks With You All the Time Written by Harry Styles Performed by Florence Pugh and Harry Styles (as Alice and Jack) Produced by Harry Styles Additional Production by Sammy Witte Courtesy of Erskine Records Limited / Columbia Records
User reviews 1K
- Dec 8, 2022
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- September 23, 2022 (United States)
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- $20,000,000 (estimated)
- Sep 25, 2022
- Runtime 2 hours 3 minutes
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“Don’t Worry Darling” Is So Much More Than Hollywood Gossip Fodder
By Richard Brody
It’s hard to write both reasonably and responsibly about Olivia Wilde’s new film, “Don’t Worry Darling” (which opens Friday), because the movie gets much of its meaning from a plot twist, occurring midway through, that delightfully surprised me and that I don’t want to spoil. (I’ll be careful, but caveat lector.) The movie, set mainly in California in what appears to be the late nineteen-fifties, makes extraordinary use of production design, dramatic staging, and narrative details, in order to taint its own realism and render the action eerie, uncanny, elusive. What’s more, the film’s self-undercutting subtleties and its big dramatic reveal serve a greater purpose: its depiction of oppression in an out-of-whack, past-tense America calls to mind the country’s current-day political pathologies. “Don’t Worry Darling” serves that purpose with a cleverness to match its focussed sense of outrage.
Florence Pugh plays Alice Chambers, one of a group of women living in Victory, a planned community established in a remote expanse of a California desert. Her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), like all the husbands of all the women she knows, works for the seemingly defense-related Victory Project, which—like the town itself—is built and run by a sunshiny, charismatic man named Frank (Chris Pine). But something seems off, starting with the town’s chilling uniformity. At the cul-de-sac where the Chamberses and their neighbors live, Jack and the other men, including Dean (Nick Kroll) and Pete (Asif Ali), pull out of their driveways at exactly the same time each morning, seen off identically by their wives, Alice, Bunny (Olivia Wilde), and Peg (Kate Berlant), and then flow into the desert with other cars of other men driving to the same workplace, somewhere amid the nearby mountains.
That uniformity suggests authoritarianism. Women don’t work; they aren’t allowed to drive and instead have free use of a trolley (the “Victory Bus Link”) decorated with slogans exhorting the passengers to secrecy. (“What you hear here . . . let it stay here.”) It takes them all to a ballet class run by Frank’s wife, Shelley (Gemma Chan), who intones soothing mantras about “control,” “symmetry,” and “order.” At home during the day, Alice listens to a radio that drones with a male announcer’s voice encouraging listeners’ “sacrifice” and “loyalty” and promising to “protect” them. The upbeat Frank warmly gathers his employees and their families at a garden party at his lavish home, where he offers “progress” to drive out “chaos,” refuses a return to society at large (“We stand our ground!”), and gets his acolytes to affirm their purpose in Victory: “Changing the world!”
Part of the allure of Victory is its cool sense of style. Its residents live to the beat of the era’s needle-drops, surrounded by a curated set of design elements that has so systematically eliminated the crass and the kitschy that it comes off as instant retro—a living museum of the moment. If “Don’t Worry Darling” offered nothing but its sense of design and its performances—especially those of Pugh, Wilde, Berlant, and Chan, which are delicately calibrated between earnest expression and parodical gestures and diction—it would still be a sensory delight, not least because Wilde, working with the cinematographer Matthew Libatique, embodies the movie’s physical world in similarly inflected and stylized images. (Among the most enticing is a matched pair of circular tracking shots, one around a cluster of husbands, the other of wives.) Yet Victory’s sleek beauty is inseparable from its relentlessly gendered and rigid social order. Like the other women, Alice spends her days scrubbing the house (which, in architecture and furnishings, is in a bright and hard-edged style that would then have been cutting-edge commercial modern), shopping (for similarly sharp-line clothing, in a department store where the women have bottomless charge accounts that never come due), and preparing for her husband’s return home by cooking a lavish, daily, multicourse dinner and primping herself to welcome him. Unlike their neighbors, Alice and Jack have no children and like it that way—because they have a freewheelingly hot marriage, as displayed in a fast sexual encounter (the Internet-famous one), of Jack going down on her amid the dishes on the dining-room table, moments after he gets home from work.
Yet there’s trouble in this candy-colored Formica paradise. Its Cassandra is Margaret Watkins (KiKi Layne), one of the few Black people in Victory, who, after some time away, has returned there with her husband, Ted (Ari’el Stachel), an employee of the Project. At Frank’s company garden party, Margaret interrupts the team-building festivities—“Why are we here? We shouldn’t be here”—and Ted whisks her away. At the department store, Alice’s friends gossip about Margaret’s transgression of company rules and the consequences that followed. Margaret reaches out to Alice to express doubts about the town’s order; soon thereafter, Alice witnesses a tragic incident. Victory’s men, in red uniforms (the local equivalent of men in white coats), get involved, while Jack and a conspicuously evil doctor (Timothy Simons) gaslight Alice, who then begins to investigate on her own, challenging Frank’s authority and the official stories that go with it. In so doing, she puts Jack’s career, and much more, at risk; her intrepid quest turns the drama into a thriller.
Some of Victory’s positive qualities—such as its anachronistic racial and ethnic integration and its lack of inhibition about sex—suggest little but a mask for its schemes of control. Yet, even before being jolted by Margaret’s existential question about this isolated community, Alice appears, by her own nature, to be out of synch with its rigid order. She seemingly compulsively disrupts the routine of programmed happiness: benignly, as when she cracks one egg after another onto the floor, and terrifyingly, as when she tests her mortality by tightly wrapping her head in plastic wrap and struggling to breathe as she tears it off. (At times, the movie veers toward the grotesquely shocking imagery of horror films.) She has grim hallucinations and allusive inner visions that the movie displays in detail.
Those visions, linking Alice’s own corporeal confusions to a distinctly audiovisual one, evoke an inner disorder, or, rather, a questioning of the drive for order. They link bodily functions, such as the flow of blood and the contractions and expansions of the eye’s iris, to black-and-white dance scenes imitating the geometrical and symmetrical imagery of production numbers from Busby Berkeley’s nineteen-thirties musicals. I’m a Berkeley obsessive , and have long felt that his intensely rhythmic dance formations are a cinematic vision of biological functions and social conditions that give rise to the anarchic individuation of personality and desire. But Alice’s visions involve only the first side of the Berkeleyan equation: its display of underlying order. Her premonition is that the programmed and disciplined order of Victory will hardly allow for her personal expression and freedom of desire. Though Frank, with his flamboyantly manipulative behavior, appears to be the overarching culprit in constraining her, Jack, too, whether intentionally or not, also seems to have a hand in it.
Cut to the red carpet. Reviews from the film’s première, at the Venice Film Festival, were sharply—unduly, I think—negative. They came in the wake of a torrent of reports that parsed the celebrity drama surrounding the film’s production and its première—in particular, apparent conflicts between Pugh and Wilde. This wouldn’t be the first time that critical responses have been distorted by ballyhooed controversy, but, in the case of “Don’t Worry Darling,” the discord proves particularly revealing regarding the onscreen results—because the conflict appears rooted in casting.
Wilde initially cast Shia LaBeouf as Jack before replacing him with Styles. Wilde claims that she fired LaBeouf in order to “protect” her cast and, in particular, Pugh, from his (unspecified) behavior. In a recent Vanity Fair article , Wilde says that Pugh told her that she was uneasy about LaBeouf. LaBeouf claims that he wasn’t fired but quit, owing to a lack of rehearsal time; he released a video that Wilde sent to him in which she expressed hope that he could return and Pugh could be persuaded to work with him. (Reportedly, Wilde recorded the video before Pugh’s discomfort with LaBeouf was made clear.) Adding to the intrigue, Wilde and Styles began dating during the shoot. Though Wilde may have displayed poor judgment in this episode, her directorial instinct didn’t fail her: Styles shines in the movie’s few and brief musical and choreographic moments, delivers dialogue smoothly, and bears himself with a seductive glide. The air of aggression, of menace, of unease in his own skin that LaBeouf brings to his onscreen persona would have highlighted the movie’s omens of disorder and danger. On the other hand, even directors’ best intentions are often at odds with a resulting good movie—Styles’s chipper performance keeps those undercurrents so far beneath the surface that, when they ultimately surge forth, it’s a big surprise, the kind that it would be irresponsible to disclose in a review. ♦
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'Don't Worry Darling' and the mechanics of a mystery
Florence Pugh plays Alice in Don't Worry Darling . Warner Bros. Entertainment hide caption
Florence Pugh plays Alice in Don't Worry Darling .
It wouldn't take you long to list a whole series of occurrences that would persuade you that something was terribly wrong in your world. Say, a giant dog materializes in your living room. You break an egg, and it's full of ketchup. Your spouse fails to come home from a trip, but their suitcase is sitting on your doorstep. Something, obviously, is wrong. What would probably take longer is figuring out what would explain these things and make for a satisfying resolution to a story about them. Where did the giant dog come from? What happened to the egg? Where on earth is your spouse? The creation of a mystery is this two-step process: create the question, then create the answer.
The new film Don't Worry Darling is a drama and a thriller, but it's also a mystery. We meet Alice (Florence Pugh), who lives in an idyllic midcentury-styled neighborhood with her husband Jack (Harry Styles). This planned community is under the control of Jack's boss Frank (Chris Pine), who runs the mysterious Victory Project, which employs all the local men while their wives keep house. Alice begins to see clues that suggest that something is terribly wrong.
Some of these appear in the trailer: A roar sounds overhead — maybe like there's something military in the men's work. A plane falters in the sky. An egg turns out to be nothing but an empty shell that crumbles in Alice's hand. A woman stands on a roof in a nightgown. Alice finds herself crushed between the wall of her house and the window. She wraps plastic wrap around her own head. In the film, all of these visuals are quite effective in creating two of the most important elements of a mystery-thriller: true curiosity and deep unease.
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Finding menace in the conformity of this imagined suburbia of the 1950s and 1960s is hardly new. (The neighborhood reminded me instantly of Edward Scissorhands .) But director Olivia Wilde does find an effective visual language, particularly in the procession of classic cars that make an eerily synchronized exit from Alice and Jack's cul-de-sac every morning. And the use of period music, while sometimes oppressive, works in this context. She also gets a powerful performance from Pugh, who's rapidly becoming one of the most reliable film actresses we have.
As Pugh's Alice becomes more and more unnerved by her surroundings, the script calls on her to become more confrontational, and as the tension in her performance rises, that curiosity and that unease rise with it. The film holds this pose probably too long, playing with its contrast of the ominous and the aesthetically beautiful, including in the increasingly literal score (with its creepy, breathy "ha-ha-ha-ha" vocals). And then, eventually, as it must, it answers the question that lies at its heart, the way "whodunit?" lies at the heart of an Agatha Christie novel. Here, that question is just, "What is going on?"
That's where Don't Worry Darling falters. There's an effort to make the answer to the mystery — which I will not reveal, obviously — feel timely and relevant and even daring. That answer is a perfectly passable, if not terribly interesting, solution to the baffling situation Alice has been in. The problem is that the answer to the mystery's central question doesn't fit terribly well with the particular pieces of evidence it needs to explain.
I can tell you that, having seen the movie, I understand what the answer to Alice's foundational dread was, but I still don't know why the plane falters in the sky. I still don't entirely know why, specifically, that woman is on the roof. I'm not sure why Alice gets squashed between the wall and the window. To the degree the setup of Don't Worry Darling is "Something is terribly wrong," the film will eventually tell you what's wrong. What it doesn't do is explain why that terribly wrong situation is causing these particular terribly wrong details.
The mechanics of a good mystery are usually such that as the story builds tension, it's like the construction of a complicated lock on an ornate door. Every piece of new information creates another complication within the mechanism of the lock. Then, at some point, you are given a key. You put the key in the lock and you turn it, and there is a satisfying click as it disengages the lock and lets you in.
This structure is one of the reasons people praise, for instance, The Sixth Sense . When you learn the truth about what you're watching, the key fits into the lock perfectly. Or, to look at this from another angle entirely, consider Rian Johnson's well-received comic mystery Knives Out . Once you've seen it a few times, lots and lots of little details that were part of the family story and the twisty narrative are explained by all that you know by the time it ends.
The issue with Don't Worry Darling is that it creates a beautiful lock and a perfectly passable key, but when you put the key in the lock, it doesn't quite turn. You don't get that satisfying click. Watching the lock be built was still a pleasure; there's even still some relief of pressure in seeing what the key looks like. But the interplay between them isn't seamless the way it should be.
If this problem of a disconnect between the clues and the solution sounds familiar, it might be because it is the primary complaint of people who hated the (still controversial!) ending of the TV show Lost . Ultimately, there was an answer to what was going on (they were not in purgatory, they were not dead the whole time). But there was not a connection between the answer and many of the delicious crumbs that were dropped over the course of the series.
For me — and I think for some proportion of the rest of the Lost audience — the writers got away with it more than they didn't, because the ending of the series was emotionally true and compelling, even if it wasn't logically intact. As I wrote at the time : "The show, in the end, died as it lived: by offering effective character studies out of murky logistics."
Had Don't Worry Darling paid off in this way, emotionally and with a satisfying conclusion for Alice as a character, it might matter less that the whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense if you sit with it for more than about 60 seconds. But partly because the movie hovers for so long in that very pleasurable and effective liminal space of tension-building and portent, it doesn't have much time to spend with its resolution, which seems rushed and leaves the distinct impression there are pieces missing that perhaps once offered more answers to specific questions about who does what to whom and why.
It's a shame, because there are some good performances here, including both Pugh and Pine (very believable as a dangerous boss), and there are some truly scary shots that work very well. But while too much explanation can doom a mystery as easily as too little, this is a case in which a little more explicit information about the workings of this neighborhood might have gone a long way.
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Don’t Worry Darling review: Harry Styles is charisma-free in Olivia Wilde’s messy sci-fi thriller
Florence pugh and chris pine star in a film that’s nowhere near as captivating as the tabloid frenzy surrounding it, article bookmarked.
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Dir: Olivia Wilde. Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, Kate Berlant. 122 mins
There has long been a sense of morbid anticipation around Don’t Worry Darling , with Olivia Wilde ’s sci-fi thriller generating large amounts of negative buzz in the run-up to its release. Its star Florence Pugh appeared to distance herself from the project amid rumours of a falling out between herself and Wilde. Shia LaBeouf disputed Wilde’s claims that he was fired from the production and released a video of the director that seemingly proved his story. Gossip columnists have also been in a frenzy about Wilde’s relationship with pop idol Harry Styles , who took over LaBeouf’s role. And that’s before we even got to “Spitgate” – or a viral, rapidly disputed clip which appeared to show Styles spitting on co-star Chris Pine at the movie’s Venice Film Festival premiere earlier this month. Of course he didn’t – and both parties denied such a thing had occurred – but it wasn’t surprising that people believed he did, considering the factual drama surrounding the film.
Ultimately, Don’t Worry Darling isn’t the disaster that some predicted – but it is a messy, convoluted affair with some very contrived plotting. Styles gives a surprisingly dull and low-wattage performance as Jack. To be fair, he is playing a very dull character, a kind of Stepford husband. Jack lives with his wife Alice (Pugh) in a gleaming, very affluent 1950s community beside the desert, working alongside lots of other husbands who look and behave exactly as he does. The men are all employees of The Victory Project, a shadowy scheme headed by Frank (Pine) that aspires to “change the world”. Frank is a svelte but sinister guru with voyeuristic tendencies who demands complete obedience. Wilde plays Bunny, Alice’s glamorous neighbour and best friend.
While the men in their identical suits drive off to work, the women stay at home. They mind the kids (if they have them), do the hoovering and cooking, and take dance lessons. Everything in their consumer paradise feels synthetic. There is lots of drinking and sex but even this lacks heart. One scene sees Jack go down on Alice the moment he gets home from work; it’s reminiscent of the famously steamy encounter between Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange on the kitchen table in The Postman Always Rings Twice . Here, though, the temperature hardly rises. Styles lacks charisma. Wilde includes a scene in which his character dances on stage after winning an “employee of the month”-style award but he is far less arresting than burlesque veteran Dita Von Teese, who has a cameo performing an extravagant striptease. Jack is a one-dimensional figure, and the One Direction star fails to give him any hidden depth. Pugh is easily the film’s most vivid and compelling personality. She plays Alice in such fiery fashion that most other characters seem robotic by comparison.
The screenplay by Katie Silberman (who co-wrote Wilde’s excellent debut feature Booksmart ) seems inspired in equal measure by Brave New World and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar . It possesses some creepy, intriguing elements and Wilde throws in spectacular visual flourishes, including Busby Berkeley-like chorus routines and nightmare sequences in which Alice suspects she really is losing her mind as her peers would have her believe.
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Don’t Worry Darling is beautifully shot by cinematographer Matthew Libatique (best known for his work on Darren Aronofsky’s films, including the director’s current Venice contender The Whale ). It has immaculate production and costume design. Beneath its polished, very stylish outer sheen, though, it’s as hollow as the lives of its pampered but empty-headed protagonists. You can understand easily enough why Alice is so desperate to get out of the community – and perhaps why certain cast members have been so wary about endorsing the movie itself.
In the Utopian, misogynistic, Mad Men -like world that Silberman and Wilde have conjured, the women’s roles are as wives and mothers. They don’t work. And if they express any dissatisfaction with their lives, they’re ostracised, treated as if they’re mentally unstable, pumped full of pills and given shock treatment. They’re all living in a gilded cage, forbidden from expressing independent opinions or even venturing too far from their own front doors. Pugh’s Alice is far too single-minded to put up with all these strictures. When she thinks she has seen a plane crashing in the mountains, she sets off across the desert to offer help. This is when her troubles start. Friends turn against her. She is labelled a troublemaker who asks too many questions. But what starts as a dystopian psychological thriller turns briefly (and absurdly) into a Fast and Furious -style chase movie in its latter scenes. The plot also has a very strange framing device, which may leave viewers scratching their heads.
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is in cinemas from 23 September
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'Don't Worry Darling' Review: Florence Pugh and Harry Styles Get Weird
Don't worry about the offscreen drama: Olivia Wilde's glossy flick is a messy but stylish B-movie, streaming now and on Blu-ray and DVD in time for Christmas.
Florence Pugh leaves her worries behind in Don't Worry Darling.
In case you were worried, Don't Worry Darling is a perfectly serviceable slice of big-screen weirdness. The slick psychological drama, now on DVD and Blu-ray and streaming on HBO Max , is a glossy, stylishly surreal thriller with something to say, featuring Harry Styles, an endless array of gorgeous fashions and Florence Pugh in excellent form. What more do you want?
Having premiered in September amid endless bizarre reports from the set and film festivals, Don't Worry Darling is available to rent and buy online now. It's also out on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in time for Christmas gifts for Harry Styles fans.
Pugh stars as a glamorous 1950s housewife living a picture-perfect suburban life. She even has a trophy husband, played by pop star Styles in a wardrobe of impeccable suits and enviable midcentury shirts. But none of the gossiping wives know where their husbands go each day in their shiny Cadillacs, and Pugh begins to wonder what's really driving the sun-dappled desert town's smoothly sinister leader, played by Chris Pine. No one else seems worried about it, darling, but there's definitely something weird going on in this retro utopia.
Director Olivia Wilde slowly cranks up the unsettling aspects of this odd idyll, tormenting Pugh's increasingly unsettled housewife with teasing visions and mounting paranoia. Wilde also plays one of the other wives, perpetually armed with a cocktail and sharply penciled side-eye. There's a hint of The Stepford Wives about them, and you'll probably also find yourself thinking of any number of midcentury melodramas and domestic chillers that stab at the suburban fantasy, from Rosemary's Baby to Blue Velvet to Get Out.
So yeah, obviously you know there's a twist coming. I can't get through a short TV episode of Black Mirror or Devs or Tales From the Loop without impatiently wishing someone would just tell me the twist so I can go do something more interesting. It's a real feat to spin a yarn that keeps the viewer engrossed for a whole movie. Don't Worry Darling largely pulls it off: As John Powell's unnerving score meshes with classic 1950s pop cuts soundtracking the deliciously stylish oddness, I found myself half-hoping for no explanation at all. There's only a limited choice of endings for these kind of stories and an over-literal solution rarely lives up to the vibe.
Florence Pugh and Harry Styles in Don't Worry Darling.
As the film premiered at film festivals in recent weeks, the bizarre happenings on screen have been matched by extraordinary events among the film's director and stars. It isn't worth rehashing the drama , but it's grimly ironic that the off-screen drama has boosted a film which could easily have sunk without trace. Don't Worry Darling is a medium-sized movie, and an original story -- the sort of thing you don't see so much in theaters any more. Even with huge stars aboard, Don't Worry Darling could easily have been one of those streaming flicks everyone talks about for two years and gets excited about the trailer and then one day you wonder, hey, whatever happened to that movie, and realize it came out on Netflix Prime Video Hulu Plus three months ago.
But don't relish the messy gossip too much. The frenzied media circus threatens to overshadow the artistic merit of a film directed by a woman , to an extent that's barely conceivable for male filmmakers. Still, even if you haven't been following the spit and spats, it's simply impossible to go into Don't Worry Darling with no preconceived notions. You're not meant to. Styles is the hottest pop star in the world, Pugh the hottest movie star. The sizzling pairing of personas is the whole point.
At least it should be. Pugh proves her talent with an almost casual effortlessness, embodying a theater-filling anguish while leaving a lingering impression she still has more left in the tank. Pugh delivers a commanding, often mesmeric performance that anchors the film at even its weakest moments.
And Harry Styles is also there.
If we're being charitable, this is one of those blessed occasions when a performer's limitations kinda suit the character. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who can't convince anyone he's a human person but is perfect as an inarticulate barbarian or stiffened robot. In Don't Worry Darling, Styles' pomaded husband is a fantasy figure, so it's OK that he struggles to inject any emotion into his lines. He's less a performer and more of a prop -- another piece of the glossy furniture filling the set, like a stylish rug or lamp: beautiful, blank and perpetually fading into the background.
At some point during the film, I thought of Matt Smith's turn in Last Night in Soho . Like Don't Worry Darling, Last Night in Soho is an ambiguously fantastical drama about a woman trapped by in a whirlwind of retro glamor and male violence. Smith played the silver-tongued, precisely tailored seducer, embodying a seething mix of sexuality, freedom, jealousy and menace. Here, Chris Pine supplies all those things, because Style sure doesn't.
Giving Styles the benefit of the doubt, casting such a magnetic onstage performer and gloriously playful wearer of clothes subverts the retro manliness of Pine, of Jon Hamm in Mad Men, of Sean Connery's James Bond (glimpsed on a poster in the film). One scene, which plays to Styles' performative strengths as it puts him squarely in the spotlight, offers a whiff of critique for the way he's made to caper before us. Which is just one of the many ideas sloshing around Don't Worry Darling like ice cubes spilling from a cocktail glass.
These ideas may not be particularly subtle or original, but at least there's something going on beneath the sharkskin suits and pinup dresses. Whether the film makes sense of these themes is another question, but the whole thing turns out to be rooted in seethingly timely anger.
So the music, the clothes and at least one of the stars are worth your time. While it's far from the sum of its parts, Don't Worry Darling is a perfectly entertaining B-movie.