Ostensibly Florence Pugh, Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde attended the Venice International Film Festival to premiere their movie Don’t Worry Darling in the same glamorous manner thousands of movies have premiered there before. Yet, the world is keenly aware by this point the trio is navigating multiple interpersonal narratives egged on by both the traditional gossip columns and social media. Wilde, the film’s director, and Styles, reportedly dating now for over a year, seemed to avoid having photos taken side-by-side lest they invite “official couple’s debut” headlines. Pugh, meanwhile, flew in late, missing the press conference. The official word is that she was too busy filming scenes for Dune: Part II, though the rumor mill claims she was bothered by Wilde and Styles’s relationship and behavior on set.
Here, a breakdown of everything that happened.
The afternoon started with Styles and Wilde joining co-stars Chris Pine and Gemma Chan for the film’s official press conference. Notably, Pine and Chan formed a human buffer between the rumored couple at all times. According to The New York Times, the questions were all rather milquetoast. Though, one about Pugh’s absence was asked.
Wilde responded that, as a director, she understood how disruptive it can be to leave a film shoot, and heaped praise on Pugh. “I can’t say enough how honored I am to have her as our lead,” the director said. “As for all the endless tabloid gossip and noise out there, the internet feeds itself. I don’t feel the need to contribute. I think it’s sufficiently well-nourished.”
A follow-up question about Shia LaBeouf’s recent claims he wasn’t really fired from the film was shut down by the moderator.
Times journalist Kyle Buchanan tweeted that about five minutes after the press conference’s most dramatic moment, Pugh was spotted in Venice for the first time.
Pugh arrived in a casual, purple set from Valentino with her grandmother at her side. One video of Pugh toasting a camera with a Venetian spritz widely proliferated on social media. Though, it should be noted Pugh’s seeming minimal promotion of the film isn’t necessarily unique. Another film in which she stars, Sebastián Lelio’s The Wonder, premiered on Friday at the Telluride Film Festival to mostly positive reviews with no involvement from the busy star (though, its possible any press will be timed for that film’s premiere on Netflix later in the fall).
The actual red carpet premiere was more notable for what didn’t happen: any interactions between any combination of Pugh, Styles and Wilde aside from one group photo option with the rest of the cast.
Pugh arrived in a shimmering sheer Valentino gown with her grandmother as her date. She seemed in good spirits. She palled around with Pine on the red carpet, and posed for photos with her female cast mates Gemma Chan and Sydney Chandler.
At one point, the cameras caught Styles greeting the comedian Nick Kroll, who has a supporting part in the film. Though, for the most part both Wilde and Styles remained lone wolfs on the carpet aside from the group photo.
Inside the Sala Grande at the Palazzo del Cinema, all parties did clap for each other as their names were called before the opening credits rolled.
Later in the night, the internet saw the above moment from a different angle, and wondered if it seemed that Harry Styles spit on Pine as he was sitting down. Though, it appears no angry saliva was involved. Pine didn’t stop clapping because he was spit on, but rather because he was trying to locate his sunglasses. The playwright Jeremy O. Harris, who was at the premiere and the after-party, promptly dismissed any spit-involved drama on Twitter.
Shortly after that moment, reviews from press screenings held earlier began to drop.
The verdict? Decidedly mixed.
Praise was heaped on Pugh’s acting, and Styles was noted for his raw promise as an on-screen presence. Though, thoughts on whether the film itself held together were less uniform.
“Things keep barrelling along thanks to both Pugh and the plot’s punchy critique of certain recent trends in the internet’s more testosterone-raddled dark corners,” read The Telegraph’s four star review. “With a smudgy red-lipsticked grin, Don’t Worry Darling drags them out into the blazing desert light.”
“Don't Worry Darling wants to be a transhumanist Truman Show, but ends up playing out more like a mostly okay episode of Black Mirror,” claimed SlashFilm.
“Although this critic initially fell for the promise of its Pleasantville-meets-The Truman Show premise, that enthusiasm dimmed sharply upon discovering that the film’s feminist lessons are as simplistic as its obvious plot turns,” wrote The A.V. Club.
The film hits American theaters in wide release on September 23rd. The mixed reviews seem to indicate the cast and crew won’t be drawn into a long Oscar campaign with the rumors sure to follow. Though, don’t be too sure. It wouldn’t be the first time a Hollywood film was greeted with so-so notices at a European film festival only to still be lavished with nominations later on. The reception of both the larger review corps and actual audiences can always differ from the festival set. The praise for Pugh’s performance in particular should keep her in the Best Actress conversation for the time being. Stay tuned.