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Will bad publicity hurt Wilde’s ‘Don’t worry Darling’?

Dan Webster

Above: Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star in "Don't Worry Darling," which opens Friday. (Photo/Warner Bros.)

It’s always struck me a bit funny when movies that haven’t yet opened receive bad publicity. And shortly afterward come concerns that the publicity will affect the movie’s box-office performance.

The latest movie to receive such treatment is “Don’t Worry Darling,” Olivia Wilde’s second feature film (her first being 2019’s “Booksmart”). This one stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles – yes, that Harry Styles – Chris Pine and Wilde herself among others.

It opens wide on Friday.

Co-written by Katie Silberman and the screenwriting twins Carey and Shane Van Dyke, “Don’t Worry Darling” – based on the trailers that I’ve seen – bears a real “Stepford Wives” vibe. But I’ll wait before I make any judgments.

What’s been in the news lately is the supposed feud between Pugh and Wilde, which was fueled by Pugh’s seemingly reluctant appearance with the rest of the cast at the Cannes Film Festival.

Here’s what the website had to say: “While Wilde has been effusive about Pugh, Pugh has not been promoting this movie or returning Wilde’s warmth. And in one of the rare moments when she has spoken about the movie, Pugh grumbled at the idea of her performance being reduced to sex scenes. There have also been rumors that Pugh didn’t care for Wilde and Styles’s relationship.”

Oh, right, it seems that Wilde and Styles are dating and may have had an on-set affair … something that may have led to her former partner, Jason Sudeikis, serving her custody papers during a promotional event.

Whatever the cause, the film is receiving mostly negative reviews.

Soren Anderson of the Seattle Times: “With the exception of Pine, the performances are undistinguished. Pugh seems oddly disengaged from Alice. She doesn’t own the part. And Styles’ work is often tinged with hysteria.”

Stephanie Zacharek of Time: “The biggest problem with ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is that it ends in the wrong place: This could have been a reasonably effective dystopian chiller, but it takes a sharp swerve into feminist triumph that feels patched-on and facile.”

But then there’s this contrasting views from Helen O’Hara of Empire Magazine: “Pugh is superb, while Wilde confidently steps up to a bigger subject and budget to deliver a slick, beautiful film. It doesn’t quite stick the landing, but its flight to that point is fascinating.”

You, of course, get the final say.

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