What to Watch, Outside or In

Reviews of "Don't Worry Darling," "Moonage Daydream," "Sidney," "Confess, Fletch," and "Murina."

What to Watch, Outside or In

Is anybody else watching “Bad Sisters” on Apple TV+? My wife and I are up to Episode 4 of this dandy dark comedy-drama about four Irish sisters deciding to do something about the fifth sister’s horrible, horrible husband (Claes Bang, who gives great odious). Sharon Horgan, the banshee of “Catastrophe,” stars and produces, and for added incentive, there’s Daryl McCormack the sweetie-pie gigolo of “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” as an insurance adjustor with the hots for one of the sisters. I’ll write something about the show when we’re further along, but until then feel free to post your thoughts — no spoilers in the comments please!

Some good stuff out there on the big screen and at home on the small(er) screen, although I’m betting that the weekend’s major moneymaker will be 2009’s “Avatar,” getting a wide re-release to prime the pump for December’s “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the first in James Cameron’s plan to flood the planet with “Avatar” sequels. (We’ll be getting one every two years until 2028.) The first movie is still the all-time box-office champ at $2.8 billion, and it’s a smart move to reacquaint audiences with the digital 3D wizardry of 13 years ago before revealing what we can do now. Let’s just hope the script is better this time.

“Don’t Worry Darling” (in theaters, ** stars out of ****) isn’t as bad as one might hope given the drama surrounding the film’s Venice festival debut, but neither is it as good as one might wish. It’s a “Stepford Wives”-style thriller with a confident, broad-strokes lead performance by Florence Pugh (above left), some fantastic production design and costumes, and a twist that’s so dumb M. Night Shyamalan on a bad day wouldn’t go near it. Pugh’s character, Alice, and her husband Jack (Harry Styles, above right) live in a desert company town overseen by a tech-bro guru played by Chris Pine; she’s deliriously happy making hubby dinner in high-50s haute couture before shagging him on the table, but soon enough doubts creep in. Where are the men going when they leave for work every morning? What’s beyond the desert? Where did the men in red suits take Alice’s friend Margaret (KiKi Layne) when she tried to warn the others?

The answers are unsatisfactory, to say the least. “Don’t Worry Darling” doesn’t lose air slowly; it deflates with a bang, as if running over a nail. The climactic reveal is ridiculous and laid on with a heavy-handed trowel by director Olivia Wilde (she also plays Alice’s catty best friend), who’s anxious to showcase her range after the success of 2019’s female buddy-comedy “Booksmart.” Still, the piling on of Wilde by the gossip press and social media had an ugly edge to it – I doubt it would have been quite so gleeful if she were a man – and it has served as an absurdist sideshow that has nothing to do with the movie and everything to do with how rarely cracks appear in the grinning camaraderie filmmakers and their casts present to the press. (No workplace is that happy.) At the end of the day, the 3-second video of Harry Styles supposedly spitting on Chris Pine at the film premiere (spoiler: he didn’t) will probably have received more scrutiny than “Don’t Worry Darling” itself, and that’s a little nauseating.

(Side note: It’s interesting to speculate on whether Shia LeBeouf, originally cast as Jack, would have made for a better movie. There’s no question that he’s a better actor than the charming but inert Styles, but LeBeouf’s intensity might have thrown the suspense out of whack in the early scenes, before Jack’s sinister aspects are revealed. A part of me wishes they’d broken the casting in two, à la Bunuel, with Styles playing Nice Jack in the first half and LeBeouf as Scary Jack in the final innings. Call it “That Obscure Object of Desire, Darling.”)

The David Bowie documentary — excuse me, “cinematic experience” — “Moonage Daydream” (in theaters, *** stars out of ****) goes wide this weekend, and if you’re a fan of the Thin White Duke in all his guises and want to recreate that Pink Floyd laser show you got baked at when you were 15, this is the movie for you – see it on an IMAX screen for additional cosmic brain damage. If you don’t know much about Bowie, this is not the place to learn: Director Brett Morgen (“The Kid Stays in the Picture,” “Cobain: Montage of Heck”) takes an enormous amount of archival footage and detonates it onscreen with a rough chronological through line and none of those pesky documentary cliches like names, dates, or talking-head interviews. (You know – context.) Since I am a fan, it worked out mostly fine, although my favorite Bowie album – “Lodger” – is inexplicably passed over. But there are so many Bowies to choose from that maybe every viewer will have that problem.

A much more sedate bio-doc is arriving in select theaters and on Apple TV+ this weekend: “Sidney” (***1/2 stars out of ****), a loving but not quite canonization of the late Sidney Poitier that had a warm reception at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. Directed by Reginald Hudlin (“House Party,” “Marshall”), it’s a smooth birth-to-death dogtrot through a remarkable life, with a deep bench of talking heads: Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Barbra Streisand, critics Greg Tate and Nelson George, five of Poitier’s six daughters, and both of his wives. But the strongest voice is Poitier’s, reminiscing directly to the camera in footage shot for Winfrey a few years before his death in January. Some of his memories are intensely moving, while other moments in “Sidney” are unsparing, including the damage done to his family by the actor’s nine-year affair with Diahann Carroll. The movie’s a tribute to a monument that takes care to remind us he was human.

“Confess, Fletch” (in theaters and available on VOD at premium prices, **1/2 stars out of ****) came out of seemingly nowhere last week and caught critics by surprise: It’s engaging, unpretentious fun, and Jon Hamm slips happily into the worn penny-loafers of I. M. “Fletch” Fletcher, a “onetime investigative journalist of some note” (his own description), occasional solver of murders, and all-around wiseass. His performance and the movie itself are closer to the spirit of Gregory Mcdonald’s 12-novel series than the two 1980s movies with Chevy Chase – the character’s laid-back sass can turn obnoxious or smarmy in the wrong hands, but Hamm generally keeps us in Fletch’s pocket. The supporting cast is choice, too: Kyle MacLachlan as a germaphobic art dealer, British comic actress Lucy Punch as an airhead influencer, Marcia Gay Harden rolling in ham as a sexpot Italian countess, and lonesome John Slattery, Hamm’s old “Mad Men” boss, as Fletch’s once and future editor. Nice Boston locations, too – for once, the filmmakers seem to have the lay of the land. Maybe hold on until the on-demand prices come down, but do check it out: “Confess, Fletch” isn’t necessarily a good movie but it is an enjoyable one.

For a tougher, more rewarding chew, try “Murina” (streaming on Kino Now, *** stars out of ****), a sometimes startling coming-of-age drama set on and in the waters off the Adriatic coast. The film’s coolly burning center is a teenage girl, Julija, played by Croatian actress Gracija Filipović, who with her controlling blowhard of a father (Leon Lučev) swims among the reefs and spears fish for the local market. A visit by an old friend of the father, a sleek business mogul (New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis), sets up a triangle of crisscrossing desires between the girl, the businessman, and Julija’s mother (Danica Curcic), who’s carrying her own torch for her husband’s friend. First-time feature director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic – she won the Caméra d’Or at this year’s Cannes – works up a mood of simmering eroticism that feels primed to erupt into lust or violence at any moment. “Murina” doesn’t stick the landing – the final scenes feel oddly indecisive – but until then Kusijanovic powerfully conveys a sense of time, place, and passions, and Filipović is a real discovery: A rebel in a dazzling white swimsuit that’s like a middle finger raised to the patriarchy.

If you enjoyed this edition of Ty Burr’s Watch List, please feel free to share it with friends.

If you’re not a paying subscriber and would like to sign up for additional postings and to join the discussions, here’s how: