HARRY Styles was discovered in the British X Factor then hit it big as a member of One Direction known for wearing skinny jeans and floral sheer blouses. He went solo in 2017 and became one of the biggest English singers today.
He then went into acting, first as a soldier in the ensemble film “Dunkirk” in 2017, then he went solo in “Don’t Worry Darling” and “My Policeman” both released in 2022. We’ve seen “Don’t Worry Darling” and he plays the male lead role of Jack Chambers with Florence Pugh as his wife, Alice.
It’s a period film and although the time is not specified, it looks like it’s set in the 1950s. The Chambers live in an idealized town called Victory Project somewhere in California near the desert.
It’s a very traditional town where the men go to work in the morning and their wives are left at home to tend to the needs of their house and prepare dinner for their husbands. Women are expected to always be submissive to their husbands and are not allowed to ask questions.
One housewife, Margaret (Kiki Layne), a black woman, is ostracized because she took her son to the desert and the boy went missing. She says that the Victory company got her son to punish her.
In a gathering, we meet Victory company’s charismatic leader and founder, Frank (Chris Pine), and while Alice is horsing around with Jack, she sees Frank peeping on them.
One day, when Alice is in the trolley that travels across their town, she sees a plane that crashes somewhere in the desert. She asks the trolley driver to go there and help out but the driver refuses, so she runs up a hill to find where the crash is. Instead, she discovers the Victory Headquarters.
She faints and when she wakes up, she’s sleeping back in her own bed. This starts a series of strange experiences. She sees Margaret on top of the roof of their own house, slitting her own throat.
She tries to help Margaret but burly men in uniform jumpsuits suddenly arrive to take her body away.
Alice tells Jack what she saw but he claims Margaret just fell while cleaning their windows and is now recuperating. Their doctor tells her not to worry and gives her some pills that only make her increasingly perplexed and afraid.
In a dinner, she confronts Frank about her suspicions but Frank makes her appear delusional in front of everyone. She begs Jack for them to leave Victory but Jack only gave her to the men in uniform jumpsuits and the doctor gives her electroshock therapy. It is in this part that the twist in the story is revealed so we’ll stop here so as not to spoil your viewing pleasure.
For his first lead role, Styles should not have accepted this as he necessarily plays second fiddle to Florence Pugh, a much more seasoned and formidable actor who could easily outmatch him. To begin with, Pugh’s role is much more central to the story and much more demanding. And Pugh is just plain outstanding in it.
And we’ve realized that Styles is not really movie star handsome and lacks on screen wattage. He certainly pales when he’s with the better looking Chris Pine, who’s superb in his enigmatic role.
He just fails to supply to Jack the inner conflict that the character clearly needs. Styles probably can do better in character roles, but considering his huge popularity in the music scene, of course, he’d find this beneath him.
As for the movie itself, we don’t know why anyone would bankroll this kind of project in this day and age. It looks more like a rehash of similarly themed films, most notably “The Stepford Wives”, which has already been remade and even had a sequel.
The cinematography and the visual style are good, but it’s the core of the story itself that is wanting and mired in sheer lack of originality. In the end, even if you don’t use a magnifying glass, you’d surely notice how the movie raises more questions that it can answer.
We just cannot mention them here because it will reveal the big twist in the story. But the sheer confusion written into the badly written script is truly just mind-boggling. This is a disappointing sophomoric work for Director Olivia Wilde after her successful debut in the comedy “Booksmart”.