Every monetized piece of media comes with PR. The goal of that PR, of course, is to promote whatever the project may be with the ultimate goal being to persuade the public to have a favorable view of it, and in turn, enthusiastically consume. Something interesting or, in cast and crew’s descriptions of the film, “sinister” has happened with the PR of Florence Pugh’s and Harry Styles’ upcoming psychological thriller, Don’t Worry Darling. In a move that has been shocking to fans and critics alike, the media storm surrounding the cast’s personal lives has become the main talking point of promotion, rather than the film itself.
While the public has asked for some clarification on what the film is actually about, or at very least a trailer that doesn’t focus solely on the sex scenes, all they have gotten in return is a play by play on the personal drama from those involved in the film. Whether it is dating rumors (which lack the authenticity to convince onlookers that the gossip holds any sort of truth), indirect back-and-forth between the director, Olivia Wilde, and former cast member Shia LaBeouf, or Florence Pugh’s very noticeable (and understandable) distance from the film- all discourse surrounding this movie seems to be about anything besides the film itself.
Don’t Worry Darling has simultaneously been shoved down the public’s throats to the point of over-saturation before it has even made it to theaters, while also providing next to no context about the movie that we are supposed to be talking about. One TikToker stated “I’m tired of all of it. Any interest I might have had in this movie doesn’t exist anymore.” How does promotion go so wrong that the promotion itself is the only thing being discussed, rather than the thing it is supposed to be promoting?
With pre-screenings and now the Venice Film Festival premiere, people are finally getting some insight that they have otherwise been deprived of up to this point. One would assume this would provide the studio some reprieve from the bad press, but it seems to have done the opposite. You would be hard-pressed to find a good review at this point in time. Variety magazine has called the movie “More Showy Than Convincing”, while IndieWire praises Pugh’s performance, only to immediately follow it up with “Too bad about the rest.” This not only serves to shed more negative light on the film, but seriously discredits a slew of talented cast members such as Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, as well as Harry Styles.
Chris Pine is a talented actor known most notably for his role as Admiral James T. Kirk in multiple Star Trek movies, and Gemma Chan recently played the hefty role of Sersi in Marvel’s Eternals. Harry Styles took on the role of Alex in Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film, Dunkirk, and has been casted in a lead role as Tom Burgess in the upcoming 1950’s queer drama My Policeman, to be released via Amazon Prime on November 4th. Florence Pugh has played Dani Ardor, the main protagonist in the 2019 folk horror, Midsommar, and is currently in the process of filming on Dune: Part Two, set to be released November 2023. All in all, this cast of talents have proved themselves to be valuable assets to any project lucky enough to have them, which could lead anyone paying attention to the drama surrounding Don’t Worry Darling to come to one conclusion: they are not the problem.
The chief complaints seem to be that though the film is gripping in the beginning, the second half falls flat while the end scene will leave viewers with more questions than answers due to various plot holes. This, of course, is not the fault of the actors themselves, but the script and the director.
The fact is, the public has been so conditioned to focus on the drama rather than the project that the reviews don’t matter that much anyway. Fans and haters alike flocked to the livestream of the premiere simply to watch the trainwreck that was sure to ensue. And ensue, it did. While the director tried but vh[ failed to keep the press conference on course (from dodging questions on why her lead actress was absent, to straight-up refusing to answer anything to do with LaBeouf), those watching were more focused on how utterly uninterested Styles, Chan, and Pine seemed to be in the whole ordeal. Styles took to pouring water out of his water bottle in a desperate act for some type of mental stimulation, Pine partook in what could only be described as dissociating unless directly spoken to, and Chan was given little opportunity to speak at all- despite being the only female cast member present for this “ultra-feminist movie”. All of this happened while a tight-lipped director painstakingly tried to smile through the tension and pretend as if everything was normal. Following the press conference was the red carpet which was just as bad, if not worse.
Pugh and Styles appeared to maintain a minimum of twenty feet between themselves and Wilde at all times, much to the amusement of everyone watching. At one point, Styles was asked to stand beside the director for a group photo and seemingly ignored the request, looking literally anywhere else and keeping a body between them at all times. Once inside the theater, that social distancing was maintained with Chris Pine sitting between the two. One fan-made meme highlighted the awkwardness of the situation, comparing Pine’s position between the two to a child sitting between their parents during a Thanksgiving dinner to keep them from divorcing. All this to say: anyone watching was able to observe this, and yet again were given very little about Don’t Worry Darling. Additionally, Pugh seemed to be aware of the talk of her absence and the assumptions on why when her stylist, Rebecca Corbin-Murray, posted a few breathtaking snaps of the actress with the caption “Miss Flo”. This, of course, sent the internet into a frenzy as it was a clear nod to the video Shia LaBeouf released the week before the Venice Film Festival of the director begging him to not quit the movie, and patronizing Pugh in the process with the nickname.
This is the publicity this film is receiving? Take into account that this is only a small amount of the drama that has happened in the last few weeks, and you can imagine what the last two years has held. PR should be, at a minimum, providing positive content to those it is aimed at. At best, it should feel organic and real. With Don’t Worry Darling, we have gotten the complete opposite, all you see is PR with the movie buried beneath and hardly noticed. At this point it’s hard to say what’s worse for the film- the continued publicity about the cast and their grievances, or the awful reviews that are still pouring in. Either way, it’s not looking good.
I suppose the best we can hope for now is that these talented actors and actresses come out unscathed, and that those working in public relations will take this whole experience as a big, glaring “HOW NOT TO PUBLICIZE ANYTHING. EVER.”
“Is This My Most Controversial Take Yet?” TikTok, Culturework, 31 Aug. 2022, https://www.tiktok.com/@culturework/video/7138093541300899115?_r=1&_t=8VQ9bDkWQqh&is_from_webapp=v1&item_id=7138093541300899115. Accessed 6 Sept. 2022.
Gleiberman, Owen. “‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Review: Florence Pugh and Harry Styles Sizzle in Olivia Wilde’s Neo-’50s Nightmare Thriller, but the Movie Is More Showy Than Convincing.” Variety, 5 Sept. 2022, https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/dont-worry-darling-review-florence-pugh-harry-styles-olivia-wilde-1235360429/. Accessed 6 Sept. 2022.
Erbland, Kate. “‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Review: Florence Pugh Burns Down Olivia Wilde’s Dollhouse.” IndieWire, 5 Sept. 2022, https://www.indiewire.com/2022/09/dont-worry-darling-movie-review-olivia-wilde-1234756185/. Accessed 6 Sept. 2022.
Corbin-Murray, R. (2022). Miss Flo. Instagram. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.instagram.com/p/CiIrTMgDNqD/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y%3D.
Chris Pine seating arrangement meme via private Twitter account. Ali, @/xorainbowlouis posted on 5 September, 2022.