In addition to iconic and unforgettable films of the seventh art, Hollywood also keeps an obscure history of problematic productions behind the scenes. These conflicts may even be as legendary as their cinematic works themselves. It’s been a while since audiences encountered such controversial behind-the-scenes scenes that managed to steal the show from the movie itself. But this year, with the release of the drama-thriller Don’t Worry, Darling – from Warner and New Line – that desire for a “cabin” has been removed.
Those of you who are more avid moviegoers must have read all about it, so we won’t go into the details of what happened. Suffice to say that in the eye of the hurricane was the actress and director of the feature film Olivia Wilde. Denials about the possible firing of Shia LaBeouf, the love affair with her lead actor Harry Styles, which caused huge unease with lead actress Florence Pugh resulting in shouting between the two (and Pugh refusing to promote the film ) to a rumor of a possible Styles spat on Chris Pine, the media went wild with every tabloid-worthy story that came out about the feature.
As said, however, here the subject of matter is another. And that intro was done just to contextualize the chaotic behind-the-scenes work, resulting in an incredibly interesting film and not the expected train wreck. Written by Katie Silberman, Don’t Worry Darling was billed as “feminist horror” and generated great anticipation. Watching the film, which recently premiered on HBO Max, I could see some clear influences that most likely inspired Silberman’s script, some even revealed by Olivia Wilde herself. The following, however, contains spoilers for the revelation of the film’s big mystery, so read on after watching it, or continue at your own risk – but be warned. Check it out below.
The Stepford Wives (1975) / Perfect Women (2004)
The most avid movie buff will immediately notice and draw a connection between Wilde’s film, an original idea, and Ira Levin’s classic book, “The Stepford Wives.” Levin, the same author of Rosemary’s Baby, published the book in 1972 described as a “satirical feminist terror”, where men plotted and in a “perfect” town performed procedures on their women to turn them into “obedient machines” or into models of the submissive woman of the 1950s. A macho paradise and, of course, a nightmare for feminism, since in the 1970s women had won many rights and freedoms. Three years after the book’s release, Columbia Pictures released the film version as a horror movie with sci-fi touches. In 2004, the same book was adapted by Paramount and Dreamworks Pictures, with Nicole Kidman as the main attraction, and completely immersed in the genre of satirical comedy and acid humor. The first association everyone immediately makes when watching Don’t Worry Honey is with Levin’s story.
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Although it’s an obvious comparison, director Olivia Wilde was hesitant to mention The Stepford Wives as a clear inspiration for her film. Instead, she preferred to create a connection with The Truman Show, the most successful production of the 90s. This comparison, however, is not unreasonable, because Wilde’s film has a lot of features with Jim Carrey – with noticeable similarities as well. As in The Truman Show, the women of Don’t Worry Darling live in a world that seems to be artificially created, where everything works too perfectly to be true. And just like Truman too, Florence Pugh’s protagonist feels an overwhelming desire to escape and discover what lies beyond the horizon. Once there, she will be able to discover the big secret.
Christopher Nolan’s film was another that Olivia Wilde mentioned when talking about her film’s inspirations. And is she stupid? Of course, she would make a connection with blockbuster films, not with unknown cult works. Again, though, it’s no stretch to compare certain elements of the two films. Here, the question that stands out the most is the dream, or the nightmare. Inception is a film about spies who work by invading people’s dreams and manipulating them, all, of course, viewed from the sidelines through futuristic technology. Thus, we better understand the comparison that the director establishes with her film.
Perhaps even more similar to Don’t Worry, Darling than Inception is the Wachowski smash hit of 1999, starring Keanu Reeves. That’s because science fiction shows people trapped against their will, experiencing virtual reality through brain projections. People are actually in their cocoons, just believing they’re living in the real world. At the end of Olivia Wilde’s film, the same thing happens, with women trapped in their cruel realities, believing they are living their lives completely and fully.
The comparison here is also somewhat similar to that already made in The Truman Show. Like Jim Carrey’s ’90s film, this aggrieved masterpiece from M. Night Shyamalan is about fictional worlds created before the characters’ eyes and said to be the real world. Both are good modern examples of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. That’s where it’s at too. Don’t worry, honey. Florence Pugh’s protagonist begins to realize that there is something wrong and artificial about the reality presented to her. But he is prevented by those who dominate this dome from going further and breaking down the barriers.
Marvel Studios’ best and most creative series also demonstrates ties to Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh’s new film. In the series starring Elizabeth Olsen, we also have an “escape from reality”, an imaginary world created and maintained by someone who does not agree to deal with the truth. Other than that, specifically regarding Wilde’s character in her dramatic fiction, Bunny, it was the loss of her children in the real world that made her want to escape to a fantasy world where she could have, without having to face the pain of grief. The motivation is similar to that of Olsen’s character in both the WandaVision series and this year’s blockbuster Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Okay, maybe I’ve gone too far back in time for a cult movie that younger generations might not be very familiar with. The truth is, Boxing Helena is a controversial movie even today, let alone when it was released. The controversy over the story based on a book led to the failure of the film by director Jennifer Lynch, daughter of filmmaker David Lynch, accused of sexist work and a nightmare for women. The fact is that the work practically serves as a horror movie and shows a monstrous guy, obsessed with a woman with whom he had a relationship in the past. After the relationship ends, the protagonist, who happens to be a brilliant plastic surgeon, kidnaps the title’s Helena (role played by Sherilyn Fenn, from the series Twin Peaks) and has her operated on, ripping off both of her legs that she doesn’t can escape from your domains. There is little cruelty in this reverse Frankenstein story. This synopsis, however, draws some parallels with Olivia Wilde’s film, about a woman trapped in captivity and forced into a reality against her will just to please the desires of a monstrous subject.
Midsommar: evil does not wait for the night (2019)
It is said that Olivia Wilde was going to star in Don’t Worry, Darling, but ditched the idea after watching Midsommar and directing Florence Pugh’s stunning performance. So, Wilde jumped into the role of Bunny and asked Pugh to live protagonist Alice. In addition to serving as inspiration for Pugh’s casting in the film, Midsommar is about a troubled couple finding themselves in a disturbing new world. Much like Harry Styles and Pugh’s characters in the film, the couple man is seen making the worst decisions possible, always thinking of himself, until his actions ultimately backfire in feminist revenge. . In both productions, the protagonist gets exactly what he deserves for dragging his partner into the worst place in the world.
It’s no coincidence that Florence Pugh’s protagonist is called Alice in Don’t Worry, Darling. And it’s no coincidence that the two characters are angelic blondes. Just like in Lewis Carroll’s short story and classic Disney animation, the protagonist flees her reality and, for this, descends the “rabbit hole” into a fantasy world, where everything seems perfect – and also a hallucinogenic journey. However, both also know that they can’t stay in fantasy forever and will have to return to the real world. Alice in Wonderland, for having such metaphors, is constantly mentioned in movies that use the theme of reality versus fantasy, like The Matrix, for example.
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