Every now and again, the drama about a movie behind the scenes makes it at least worth watching. Sometimes, you’d almost wish someone would do what Christopher Walken’s character did in America’s Sweethearts and just secretly film all the behind the scenes stuff rather than show us what was supposed to be filmed from the script. I’m sure the off-camera action of this movie’s production was so much better than the two hours of stuff we’ve seen done before and better.
The drama that came in the late summer was such crazy that people were almost certain Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine even though it’s been denied by everyone. And seeing Pine sitting at a panel table looking like some Karen housewife from Indiannapolis was far better than much of this movie. And then there was that stuff about Jason Sudekis having child custody papers served on Olivia Wilde, who directs and acts this movie, during a presentation. Wasn’t Ted Lasso supposed to be a nice guy? Add Shia LeBouf, who’s always willing to hell at the clouds when need to, to the mix and Florence Pugh’s pouting face and it’s still better than anything in this movie.
The problem with DWD is we fucking know what’s going on almost immediately. Jesus Christ, does Wilde not think we’ve seen this before in The Stepford Wives, Suburbicon, Get Out, The Matrix, Existenz, The Truman Show, The Thirteenth Floor, Source Code, Total Recall, Vanilla Sky or all four Matrix movies, as well as many other movies that I can name? When it beings in your typical 1950s upper class white family lifestyle, you immediately know something isn’t right as many families are living in a company town in Victory, Calif., which looks like Palm Springs.
That’s the problem. Wilde never does present the illusion as normal. We know there’s a glitch in the Matrix almost from the start. There’s no illusion that it’s the 1950s for real. Sometimes, this approach works and sometimes it’s doesn’t. Pugh and Styles play a married couple, Alice and Jack Chambers. Alice is a housewife and Jack is a workaholic who along with everyone else leaves their idyllic neighborhood to travel and sometimes race in very flashy expensive cars along the desert in their nice cars to an unknown location.
But Alice begins to notice something is off and especially when her friend, Margaret Watkins (Kiki Layne), begins to act very strange after the death of her son when they go out in the desert. However, Margaret says the son was taken from her as punishment. Bunny (Wilde), her best friend and neighbor, and others try to gaslight Alice by telling her everything is just fine. Frank (Pine) is the founding of what’s called the Victory Project and Jack’s boss. He seems to have a Dean Martin as Dr. Evil style approach to everything in the way he dresses and acts.
What is the Victory Project we don’t know. Neither do all the wives as they’re husbands leave every day with the excitement of elementary school kids running into McDonalds when they stop on a school field trip. They life a lifestyle that resembles something out of a Playboy magazine from the late 1950s/early 1960s.
All the wives seem to ride in the trolley that drives around town to do their errands. But when Alice sees a plane crash out in the desert and the driver unwilling to drive out, she takes off in the desert. However, Alice comes upon the headquaters for Victory. It’s a small building with mirrors for windows and when she touches the building, she starts hallucinating before she ends up back at home hours later. Jack is acting frantic trying to make supper.
By now, you can probably guess what’s going on. The problem with the movie is it might have worked as a Twilight Zone episode no longer than 25 minutes or so. But most of what we see is people trying to gaslight Alice. Frank even becomes more antagonistic toward her resulting in the obligatory dinner scene where she calls him out in front of everyone.
And from here you can guess what happens next. It isn’t much of a twist. From the early scenes of the idyllic 1950s era setting, you can guess what’s happening. And that’s the problem. Why do filmmakers still have a weird obsession with this era almost 70 years later. It wasn’t as great as they think it was. George Clooney did a better job of stripping the facade of this era with the not-so-great Suburbicon because it still felt like a criticism of this era. I think the best filmmaker to show the mockery was how Peter Weir set up the Seaheaven town in The Truman Show as a idyllic 1950s style in modern times. Look at the costumes and the settings. But at least going in, we need it wasn’t real and Weir wasn’t trying to make us thing any different.
While Pugh tries to do what she can with the material, her performance is mostly a reactionary one. Pine seems to have fun as the sly villain but I’m left wanting to know more about all that is going on instead of some silly chase scene. Strangely, Bunny has the more complex character as a person willing to live with the secret rather than the other way. It shows how far removed from reality a lot of people are.
As for all the controversy surrounding this movie, the sex scenes which made it seem like this was PornHub selection are very tame. And it probably would’ve been a better casting choice as Styles doesn’t really work in the role. I knew what Wilde was going for when she cast Styles in the role but he’s not a good actor, at least in this. The rest of the cast with the exception of Layne just function as glorified background extra popping up in whatever scenes need them and saying a few lines and then leaving.
What do you think? Pleasec omment.