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DVD REVIEW: Gossip aside, 'Don't Worry Darling' bears watching

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Movie critic Bruce Miller says “Don’t Worry Darling” takes too long to introduce its agenda, but actors Harry Styles and Florence Pugh are quite good.

Before it was released in the summer, “Don’t Worry Darling” held such promise.

Directed by Olivia Wilde, it featured Harry Styles (then her beau), critical darling Florence Pugh and former sexiest man in the world Chris Pine.

How could it go wrong? Well, social media erroneously reported that Styles spat on Pine, Pugh argued with Wilde and everyone was upset.

A hit? Or a miss?

Watch the film and you’ll see the gothic drama never fails to hold interest. But when it gets to the end – an interesting end – it somehow feels unfulfilled, just like Alice (Pugh). She lives in this mid-century paradise with her husband, Jack (Styles), but something seems a bit off, a bit too perfect. When a friend shows signs of stress, men in jumpsuits start appearing in the desert neighborhood and, soon, Margaret (Kiki Layne) is gone.

Just as Jack’s fortunes rise in the Victory Project, Alice’s confidence wanes. She thinks something is going on and isn’t afraid to melt down when the big boss (Pine) happens to be at their house.

Best friend Bunny (played by Wilde) tries to rein her in, but her tactics don't seem to work. This “Mad Men” world has an undercurrent that needs exposing and, like “Promising Young Woman,” isn’t afraid to do it. Pugh is just as forceful (and enigmatic) as that film’s Carey Mulligan, but she brings her own vibe to a story that seems to be ticking along on a much different track.

Visually, “Don’t Worry Darling” is stuffed with droolingly good costumes and sets. As the women fill their tumblers before the men come home, you can feel the boredom and sense the restlessness.

Still, most don’t blink. Ever.

When Jack is given a promotion – then encouraged to dance like Pine’s puppet – you can sense the humiliation that comes along with success. While Wilde never ventures into the office, it’s clear this is a caste system. Jack’s peers are just as unsettled but they don’t have an unhinged wife.

Styles does a great job straddling the fence and justifies the way his character reacts to Alice’s behavior. He doesn’t want to tear down the technicolor world; he just wants to enjoy it.

When Wilde finally reveals what’s at play (it takes a bit), we understand why he acts the way he does.

An earlier reveal might have been better – particularly since the ending seems abrupt – and let us watch the way certain people react.

Pugh, though, really knows what she’s doing. Excellent in all these creepy outings (“Midsommar” continues to haunt), she makes us want to know more than Wilde ever could offer. She galvanizes all her scenes and makes little things – like food prep – resonate in a way you didn’t think possible.

While “Don’t Worry Darling” probably has more in common with “Get Out” than “The Stepford Wives,” it doesn’t have a message that goes far beyond the film’s boundaries.

It’s fascinating. It’s just not the kind of movie that sparks endless conversations about the way one faction treats another.

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The nominees for the 95th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday in Beverly Hill, California. The best picture nominees include All Quiet on the Western Front”; “Avatar: The Way of Water”; “The Banshees of Inisherin”; “Elvis”; “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; “The Fabelmans”; “Tár”; “Top Gun: Maverick”; “Triangle of Sadness” and “Women Talking.” Best actor nominees are Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”; Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Austin Butler, “Elvis”; Bill Nighy, “Living” and Paul Mescal, “Aftersun.” Best actress nominees are Ana de Armas, “Blonde”; Cate Blanchett, “Tár”; Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”; Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”; and Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

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