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Movie review: Don't Worry Darling

(Or When Harry Met Livvy).

TEXAS, USA —

DON'T WORRY DARLING

Wow. It's been a long time since a movie has come along burdened by so much behind-the-scenes gossip. It's almost hard to watch it for what it is, but don't worry, darling (note the comma), I did! 

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star as a couple having passionate sex and living the perfect mid-century mod life as part of the 'Victory Project' in the California desert. The women are the perfect housewives (cue "The Stepford Wives") living on a perfect cul-de-sac, while their husbands go off to work on their secret project, led by a cult-like boss played by Chris Pine. 

It's clear this is all too engineered, and soon Pugh's character, Alice, has grave doubts that this is a good situation. Her neighbor has already figured something out and is deeply disturbed. Should Alice stir the pot and get to the bottom of it? Or is just time to make another pot roast and swirl another cocktail?

Styles' now girlfriend, Olivia Wilde, co-stars as the sultry den mother of the housewives. She also directs her first feature since her critically-acclaimed breakout, "Booksmart." I'm sorry to say, this is a miss for her and her screenwriters. There's so much setup and exploration, that when the movie finally takes a twist with about 30 minutes left, it all goes to chaos with too many unanswered questions. That said, the style of the movie is intoxicating. Speaking of styles, Harry's charisma translates to the screen. He shows real potential as an actor. It might also be a career-best performance by Pine. But this film belongs to Pugh, as does any film I've seen her in. Her performance is feisty and daring and captivating enough to hold the audience, but not even she can glue the pieces of this fractured plot. Sign me up for Palm Springs, but no victory lap here.

(Warner Bros. Rated R. Running Time 2 hrs. 2 mins. In Theaters Only)

CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY

"Girls" creator and star Lena Dunham also directs her sophomore feature. She goes back to Medieval times for "Catherine Called Birdy." Based on the award-winning YA novel. a spirited young teen refuses to be sold into marriage by her father, foiling every attempt in a comic way. 

"Game of Thrones" fans will know star Bella Ramsey, who played 'Lyanna' for three seasons. This material is so well-suited to her, she's delightful. Also featured is Taylor Swift's boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, as her uncle who she has a crush on.

There are plenty of young feminist overtones here, along with class clashes, but it's overall just an entertaining little movie. And no glamour here. The castle's falling apart, the grounds are muddy. You get the picture. The tone reminds me a little of "A Knight's Tale" which introduced us to one of my all-time favorites, the late Heath Ledger. This birdy takes flight!

(Amazon Prime Video. Rated PG-13. Running Time 1 hr. 48 mins. In Theaters Now. Streaming on Oct. 7)

THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER

Hmm ... I might need a guzzle of beer to figure out what went wrong with this one. 

Director Peter Farrelly's last film, "Green Book," won the 2019 Oscar for Best Picture. So, there was a lot of anticipation for his follow-up, which he also co-wrote based on a true story. Zac Efron plays 'Chickie,' a Viet Nam era New Yorker. 

Upset by anti-war protests, one night at the bar, (the great Bill Murray plays bartender) he gets the idea to haul some beer to his neighborhood buddies in Nam. He's a former Merchant Marine, so he hops a ride to Southeast Asia, tracks down the guys and throws back some brewskies with them.

Some of the military personnel fully assume he's CIA, and help him with his travels, but the sheer ease that he gets around behind the lines rings false. And the tone of the movie is hard to land on. Is this a comedy? Not really, but the situations can be. (I think it's meant to be like M*A*S*H but is nowhere near.) 

Chickie runs into journalist Russell Crowe early on, but the Oscar-winner doesn't return until close to the end of the movie, when stakes ramp up with an attack on Saigon. Now we have a movie, but it's too late. The beer is already flat.

(Apple TV+. Rated R. Running Time 2 hrs. 6 mins. In Theaters Only. Streaming Sep. 30)

ON THE COME UP

"On The Come Up" is about a young teen who's trying to live up to her late dad's legacy and her own goals of becoming the best rapper ever. Jamila Gray makes her feature film debut in the lead role of 'Bri.' Her motto: "You can't spell brilliant without 'Bri!' The movie is a first for Sanaa Lathan, too... her first time directing a feature. She does double duty, also playing Bri's mom, a recovering addict. Lathan says she sees a little of herself in 'Bri.' You might remember her own breakout role with Omar Epps in "Love and Basketball." That was 22 years ago!

This is a decent movie, based on a novel by the same writer of "The Hate U Give" (which was turned into a slightly better movie). Gray is a fierce ball of fire, I really enjoyed the performance of Da'Vine Joy Randolph as her early mentor and Lathan performs solidly in both roles. There's also an important message of the power of the word. Don't say it, unless you own it.

(Paramount Plus. Rated PG-13. Running Time 1 hr. 55 mins. In Theaters and Streaming on Paramount Plus.)

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