Watching the first Don’t Worry Darling trailer on Twitter, I couldn’t help thinking about the Oscars.
I usually find it exhausting to try and predict Oscar nominations for the upcoming year when the previous season just ended. Can’t we all just take a breath? Sure, the Cannes Film Festival is weeks away and soon it will be Venice and Toronto and Telluride. But there’s so little we even know about Oscar hopefuls; some aren’t even finished. Do we really need to start the punditry so soon?
And yet, the Don’t Worry Darling trailer makes the movie look like a real awards contender. Directed by Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling follows young lovers Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles), in what appears to be the ’60s, as they enter an idyllic community. However, something isn’t right with their new neighborhood, led by the mysterious Frank (Chris Pine). The trailer doesn’t give much else away, but there are enough references to films like The Truman Show and The Stepford Wives to fill in some gaps. (There are also plenty of love scene snippets to keep Harry Styles fans happy.)
What’s really striking in the trailer, besides the immaculate-looking set design, costumes, and visuals, is the cast. For many, Florence Pugh and Harry Styles are well worth the price of admission. Alongside them is Gemma Chan (fresh off Eternals), Olivia Wilde herself, KiKi Layne, and, to my surprise, Chris Pine. Think about it: a cast filled with likable, well-known personalities in a psychological thriller masquerading as a ’60s paradise? It looks like catnip for the Academy.
So, it’s a question worth asking: could Don’t Worry Darling be the first film since Silver Linings Playbook to score Oscar nominations in all four acting categories? Let’s take a look.
Best Actress (Florence Pugh)
If Don’t Worry Darling ends up an Oscar contender, Florence Pugh is the surest bet. Pugh is one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood, thanks to her range, vulnerability, and screen presence. She’s a consistent scene-stealer and a magnetic lead, which makes her potential in Don’t Worry Darling so exciting. Whether she’s playing off a love interest (Styles) or foe (Pine), or on her own, it’s likely audiences won’t be able to look away from her. She’s also an Oscar nominee, for 2019’s Little Women. (There are at least a few timelines where Pugh upset that year’s winner Laura Dern.)
Pugh could not only land her first Best Actress nomination, but also the win. She could follow the model that Emma Stone laid out: popular actress who nearly won Best Supporting Actress (for Birdman) and then succeeded in Best Actress later (for La La Land). Depending on how strange and offbeat the film ends up being, Academy voters who liked her in Midsommar could boost her to a win in a more accessible film. However it turns out, Pugh is in a really solid position heading into the fall festival season.
Best Supporting Actor (Chris Pine)
Chris Pine makes the strongest impression in the Don’t Worry Darling trailer after Pugh. Playing the likely wizard behind the curtain, Pine is mysterious, charismatic, bemused, and kind of off-putting. The scene where Frank and Alice face off at the dinner table captures all of those things at once, and feels like a solid Oscar clip in its own right. However, assuming he is the villain of this Stepford story, a juicier scene is coming.
Pine’s performance seems to fit a popular Oscar-worthy acting mold. Pine is a classically handsome actor who looks like a leading man. However, as some classically handsome leading men have come to realize, more interesting roles subvert their looks to tell more intriguing stories. Sebastian Stan did this recently in roles like Fresh and Pam & Tommy. (The latter will most certainly net him an Emmy nomination this year.)
Apart from the role itself, Pine has been a solid movie star for years who’s long-overdue for another prestige project to show off his acting chops (like the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water). Don’t Worry Darling could prove he’s more than a “Hollywood Chris” and can do more challenging work. (Even if it doesn’t, he still sits with Evans in the upper echelon of Hollywood Chrises.)
Best Supporting Actress (Gemma Chan, Olivia WIlde, and/or KiKi Layne)
This category is harder to read, since there are three possible contenders: Gemma Chan, Olivia Wilde, and KiKi Layne. Much will depend on the film itself and how their roles net out. Wilde is a solid bet as someone who not only acted in the film, but handled the whole production from start to finish. Actor-directors are en vogue, and Wilde could score a double nomination for deftly managing both jobs.
If not, or alongside, Wilde, Chan could use the goodwill from Crazy Rich Asians and Eternals to score her first nomination. Similarly, KiKi Layne is itching for awards recognition after her breakout performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. Again, a lot depends on how important their roles are, but Warner Bros will absolutely campaign for one or perhaps two of them. The question is, who?
Best Actor (Harry Styles)
Best Actor is by far the most intriguing category to predict. Harry Styles is a music star first and foremost, currently topping the charts with his single “As It Was.” (His third album, Harry’s House, is out this month.) That doesn’t mean acting is a passing fancy. His first role was in Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-nominated Dunkirk, and he made a solid impression with a pretty small part. His second was as Thanos’ brother Eros in Eternals’ mid-credits scene, a role likely important to Marvel’s future.
Don’t Worry Darling is Styles’ first lead role, and while the trailer keeps its cards close to the vest regarding his performance, there are glimpses into its depth. It looks like a fairly complex role: a doting husband who’s either deliberately gaslighting his wife or equally concerned as her. For Styles, it could either be a star-making performance, or Pugh could eat him alive and leave no crumbs.
Assuming his performance skews to the former, could Styles be a legitimate Oscar contender? I can hear the snickering from awards pundits already, but it’s not impossible. Lady Gaga blew Hollywood open with her Oscar-nominated performance in A Star is Born, and almost landed a second nomination for House of Gucci. Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Cher, and Barbra Streisand also leaped from music to Oscar contention. (Male singers are notably less successful.) If he holds his own against his more seasoned co-stars, makes use of his considerable charisma, and does some Gaga-esque campaigning, Styles could, could, pull off a nomination. (As for winning, that’s a different story I won’t entertain until at least December.)
Before You Freak Out…
To be clear, we are very, very early in thinking about awards. The season hasn’t begun in earnest. Don’t Worry Darling could be a huge disappointment for everyone involved. It could also be the star of the season, with a strong ensemble that all have reasonable paths to awards consideration. Anything can happen, but the best case scenario here is fascinating to consider.