by Camille Borodey
Don’t Worry Darling (Stream on HBO Max) – All the women in the idyllic 1950s-styled neighborhood of Victory, California, do the same thing every day. They clean the house, go shopping, keep themselves fit at dance class, and prepare dinner for their husbands-all with glowing smiles. Most importantly, the women in Victory are discouraged not ask questions about their husband’s work at The Victory Project. However, one of the housewives, Alice (Florence Pugh), begins questioning their lives in Victory. How did we get here? Why do we all have similar backstories? Why is everything so clean and perfect? Alice tries to take her concerns to her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), but he dismisses her claims saying they shouldn’t question their lives but be happy and compliant with what they have.
Florence Pugh as Alice is the highlight of the intriguing yet frustrating movie. Styles is okay as Jack, and all the other actors do not know what movie genre they are acting in. This is director Olivia Wilde’s second film following 2019’s “Booksmart,” and taking on a psychological thriller after doing a teen rom-com is ambitious. In an interview, Wilde commented that “Don’t Worry Darling” was supposed to make a feminist statement, but the movie has quite a few plot holes that I’m not sure what it’s trying to say. “Don’t Worry Darling” features beautiful costumes and cinematography and is super entertaining at times but tries to do too much while also not doing enough.
Tár (Rent on Amazon) – Is Cate Blanchett headed for her third Oscar win for her electrifying roles as Lydia Tár, a fictional composer-conductor whose career starts to crumble due to her arrogance? When we are first introduced to Lydia, we learn that she is an EGOT recipient, the first female chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, and is currently in the process of conducting a recording of Mahler’s 5th Symphony. While Lydia is a charming genius when she wants to be, we also slowly learn that she is a selfish monster with minimal regard for the people around her, including her loyal wife, Sharon (Nina Hoss). As the story unravels, we begin to learn that Lydia has a questionable past that may link her to a tragedy regarding a student in her fellowship.
This is a movie about cancel culture and how people like Lydia use their position to overpower and demean people below them. “Tár” is a topical film without feeling gimmicky. At 157 minutes, it never feels slow, and the ambiguous ending may have you feeling slightly perplexed, but not in a bad way. “Tár” is a complex and tense film you will be thinking about for days.
Persuasion (Stream on Netflix) – At age 19, Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) is persuaded by a close family friend not to marry Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis) due to his financial and social status. Eight years later and still unmarried, Anne encounters Wentworth, who is now a wealthy captain, and she still heavily regrets her decision and secretly hopes he still loves her. While Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is her quietest, most mature novel and often quite sad due to how her family treats Anne, this movie is a lighter, more comedic adaptation. Plus, while this movie is set in the 19th century, the characters speak in modern dialogue.
Austen’s work has been adapted and reworked into countless movies and miniseries, so I don’t mind if the filmmakers go away from the original text and try something new. However, fans may be disappointed by this adaptation because unlike “Emma” and “Pride and Prejudice,” there really has not been a notable adaptation of “Persuasion.” This version takes Austen’s most mature and introverted heroin and turns her into a quirky, if not a little cliche, rom-com lead. Still, Johnson is charming as Anne if you accept she’s a pretty different character from the book. She breaks the fourth wall and talks to the camera quite a bit, which works since so much of the novel takes place inside Anne’s head. As Wentworth Jarvis is quite stiff, but the rest of the cast offers a variety of fun personalities. Sillier, faster-paced, and less subtle than the novel, Netflix’s “Persuasion” is a fun way to enjoy Austen without needing to think too hard, but here’s to hoping we get a more accurate adaptation of this story in the future.