Florence Pugh is a woman living in a utopian company town in the 1950s where the neighborhood husbands go off each morning to do some sort of classified work (on the “development of progressive materials”) while their wives gossip, shop, lounge and take dance lessons. In detailing her perfect daily life, the film’s first two thirds hint at something vaguely off kilter, even sinister.
The costume design, cinematography and production design are flawless. And the set-up is intriguing, at least for anyone who has never seen The Stepford Wives, Pleasantville, The Truman Show, any Twilight Zone episode or The Matrix. Still, maybe the looming Big Reveal will be worth the derivative wait.
Well, that’s a great big not-gonna-happen, because when the overcooked “mystery” is finally revealed, it’s done so chaotically and utilizing such a rushed and massive exposition dump that I had to find an online synopsis to figure out exactly what happened.
Olivia Wilde made the leap from acting to feature directing with 2019’s impressive Booksmart, a witty coming-of-age social comedy that worked wonderfully and got rave reviews. Her foray here into sci-fi/horror/faux-feminism, while a misstep, does indeed demonstrate her directorial chops. She just has to pick her scripts better. That said, Pugh’s powerhouse performance almost makes this worth sitting through. Almost,
The film’s off-screen scandals are far more dramatic. I’ll not go into them because, mainly, I don’t care. Look it up. But one result was replacing Shia LaBoeuf, an actor, in the male lead with Harry Stiles, a Britpop star (and Wilde’s current squeeze) who makes Keanu Reeves look like Daniel Day-Lewis. (123 min)