Do not Fear Darling is Rote However Oh So Stunning

Don’t Fear Darling, the second movie directed by actor/director Olivia Wilde after her directorial debut Booksmart made a splash, exhibits Wilde taking up a unique style and appearing in addition to directing. The movie, written by Booksmart scribe Katie Silberman from a narrative developed with Carey and Shane Van Dyke (grandchildren of Dick), introduces viewers to an idyllic world that, expectedly, seems to be hiding some darkish secrets and techniques.

The movie’s solid is filled with stars, from Oscar-nominee Florence Pugh and Harry Kinds because the results in Chris Pine as the pinnacle of the neighborhood, with appearances from Wilde, Gemma Chan, and Nick Kroll. The setting is an all-too-perfect 50s suburban world making your complete movie a surprise. There are attractive basic automobiles, gorgeous mid-century structure, and stylish fashions for the women and men on display screen. Even the encompassing desert is fantastically shot in a approach that evokes cinemascope westerns.

Picture Credit score: New Line Cinema


The one factor that doesn’t match the aesthetic, or so it appears, is the heavy digital rating from John Powell. The rating typically melds with the movie’s sound design, creating a way of omnipresence to the music that’s unnerving and thrilling, particularly as startling sound cues flip into lengthier compositions.

It’s a phenomenal movie, crammed with lovely folks, however sadly that’s not sufficient.

We’ve Been Right here Earlier than

The neighborhood on this magical neighborhood in the midst of the desert the place males go to work day-after-day and ladies keep residence instantly brings to thoughts Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives. That’s not essentially an issue; different movies have mined the horror of suburbia, earlier than and for the reason that launch of The Stepford Wives, with various levels of success. The problem is that the primary half or so of Don’t Fear Darling feels too carefully associated to that iconic textual content.

The neighborhood exists so that ladies could be men and women could be males. It’s “the best way issues are alleged to be,” we hear Pine say in a voiceover at one level. The ladies are important members of this society insofar as they help their husbands, however probably the most individuality they’re afforded are the dishes they make and the clothes they purchase. Pugh’s Alice begins to query issues after her good friend Margaret (Kiki Layne) says issues aren’t proper, and he or she witnesses a airplane crash within the desert outdoors the neighborhood.

Picture Credit score: New Line Cinema

The women and men of the neighborhood, in fact, separate themselves from Margaret, together with Alice, whilst she begins to consider that one thing could also be incorrect. However when Margaret dies, Alice turns into satisfied and begins to analyze. Sadly, this portion of the movie feels gradual, maybe not by any fault of the filmmakers however just because now we have seen it so many occasions earlier than. In a post-Black Mirror world, the investigation of an idyllic world isn’t as attention-grabbing because it as soon as was. We’ve seen it performed out too many occasions and too shortly for a movie to spend as a lot time on it as Don’t Fear Darling does.

Wasted Potential

Don’t Fear Darling turns into one thing distinctive, or not less than extra attention-grabbing, when Chris Pine’s Frank decides to antagonize Alice. Whereas the neighborhood gaslights her about what she has seen, he helps her questioning; actually, he nearly begs her to problem him. This antagonism leads to a cocktail party scene that’s transcendent.

The 2 each try and persuade the celebration of their reality, however Frank already has everybody on his facet, so Alice is already at a drawback. It doesn’t matter what Alice says, just one particular person on the desk (one of many different ladies) will entertain her questions and criticisms of the world they inhabit. It’s a superb scene, and each Pugh and Pine are implausible in it (as they’re all through the movie). But it surely’s the one scene that manages to really feel new and thrilling within the entirety of the movie.

Earlier scenes between Jack and Alice, the place they fiercely and excitedly make love, are genuinely erotic and convey into query whether or not the movie will change into a contemporary erotic thriller. Sadly this eroticism disappears after the primary twenty or thirty minutes. That’s all of the extra disappointing given that there’s a palpably charged second between Alice and Frank’s spouse Shelley (Gemma Chan) early within the movie that appears to vow issues to come back.

The mixture of aesthetic accomplishment and transient thrilling moments imply that Don’t Fear Darling is way from a failure. There may be greatness right here. But it surely’s held down by its overlong first half and a script that doesn’t supply something we haven’t seen earlier than.

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Kyle Logan studied philosophy and now continually overthinks music and films.

He’s a movie and tv critic and normal popular culture author who has written for Cultured Vultures, Chicago Movie Scene, Fort of Chills, and Filmotomy. Kyle has coated digital movie festivals together with the inaugural Nightstream pageant in 2020 and the 2021 Fantasia Movie Competition. Kyle is taken with horror movies, animation, Star Wars, and Journey Time, in addition to older style movies written and directed by queer folks and ladies, notably these from the Nineteen Seventies and 80s. Together with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Movie Problem on Letterboxd.