There is one week before the start of the Venice International Film Festival, or “La Biennale (chef’s kiss gesture)” as they say over there. Olivia Wilde’s second feature Don’t Worry Darling, in the ten thousandth month of its press tour, will premiere there, and I have to confess some moderate worry, darling, about the state of things.
Everything to know about this movie we’ve known for a year and a half: California 1950’s suburbia gone awry, something something sci-fi, acclaimed script off of the Black List (a collection of popular but un-produced scripts that often go on to make lackluster but cheapish features), Wilde and her male lead Harry Styles hooked up, Florence Pugh has gone silent on the whole thing of it, despite Wilde opening every interview by praising Pugh’s talent, focusing otherwise on Dune 2 and defending her small boobs (solidarity, sister).
A film with a solid marketing team would know how to weaponize its internal drama, using whatever beefs exist to create a sense of intrigue and mystique around the affair(s — romantic and disdainful, alike), but instead, the Don’t Worry Darling press tour has doubled down on a paltry message of female empowerment and blowhard justifications for itself. Wilde has also pointedly included in every interview that the movie — along with being about women’s oppression — is also about women cumming. “Men don’t come in this film,” Wilde announces at the start of a new Variety profile. “Only women here!” In a movie whose trailer continues to feature a woman (Pugh) with her head covered in Saran wrap, I am relieved, at least, she gets to have a big O, I guess.
The Variety profile is full of self-justifications, the type perhaps more affiliated with the TikTok accounts of New York Times film critic freelancers, in which Wilde goes long on the lack of chances female directors get. It’s true that female filmmakers who are not from acting backgrounds, like Kelly Reichardt or Joanna Hogg, women who make quiet, artistic films, struggle to get funding at times. It is undoubtedly hard out there for women who want to make good movies.
But has Wilde made one of those? So far there is a lot of huffing and puffing over a movie no one has really seen, a movie in which Wilde, and to some extent, Styles are content to keep describing scenes from in the weeks leading up to its release in Venice and then Toronto and then the States. Styles, for his part, is relatively tight-lipped, otherwise explaining in a follow-up interview in Rolling Stone that most of his friends are from childhood or work (basically how most people make friends). It is possible that Wilde is going so hard on the promotion for it because she believes in its message, and I believe wholeheartedly that she does, but her ongoing long-winded explanations about why she deserves the success or merit of Don’t Worry Darling’s whatever the hell it is don’t inject faith. Frankly, the opposite.