By Emily Hanson || Arts and Leisure Editor
If you’ve been on the internet in the last couple weeks, you most likely have seen or heard the drama surrounding Olivia Wilde and her latest film, psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling.
And don’t worry if you haven’t seen it yet; this is a spoiler-free story.
In a nutshell, Florence Pugh and Harry Styles are the leads in the movie, playing wife and husband Alice and Jack, alongside veterans Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, and Wilde herself. However, the drama began during filming as Wilde began dating Styles after they met on the set. The plot takes place in the fictional town of Victory, California, in which husbands drive off to work every day on a top-secret “project,” returning to ill-informed wives who spend their days performing household chores and cooking meals.
Turmoil continued with Pugh’s noticeable lack of promotion for the film, which was merely small comments in comparison to her usual amount of publicity on social media. Her only appearance at a promotion event was the red carpet at the 2022 Venice Film Festival premiere, during which she distanced herself from most of her fellow actors. Rumor has it that Pugh disliked seeing Styles and Wilde so close together on set, and often felt reduced to merely sex appeal. This all came to a head in early September, right in the middle of promotion activities, as meme-worthy, messy moments piled up from the cast.
But despite all of the internet drama, and my personal bias (as a huge Harry Styles fan), I went to see Don’t Worry Darling on opening night. This will not be a movie review, but as a movie-lover I will admit I enjoyed both the acting (particularly from Pugh, whom I also love) and the directing of the film, despite a couple plot holes. That being said, there is one shining star of the movie who I hadn’t even heard of until I watched it: KiKi Layne.
The whole internet has spent so much time debating and exploring rumors that the mystery of Kiki Layne fell under the radar, but I insist on bringing it to light. KiKi Layne plays Margaret in the film, a housewife who begins to fear Victory isn’t all that it seems.
So the problem is this: ‘KiKi Layne’ is written atop the official movie poster, her character is integral to the storyline, and her acting is impeccable. But her screen time in the film is extremely minimal, enough to the point where I wondered where she went and why she had gone. Layne was not even present at Don’t Worry Darling‘s Venice Film Festival premiere, but nobody wondered where she could be as the dramatics took center stage. It’s also worth noting that Layne’s character Margaret seemed to be the only black member of the Victory community, so her sudden absence (in the movie and its marketing) was more confounding.
Now, I hadn’t heard nearly enough about Layne to satisfy my curiosity and frustration, so I searched for any promotion material she may have provided. One of few I discovered was an Instagram post following the premiere date in which Layne said: “The best thing about #DontWorryDarling is that I was lucky enough to meet @arielstachel. They cut us from most of the movie, but we thriving in real life,” referencing her partner, actor Ari’el Stachel.
If the implication here isn’t already clear enough, I also discovered that Wilde largely described Don’t Worry Darling before its release as a feminist, women-empowering film. The majority of the female cast of this film were Pugh and Wilde, portraying the character Bunny, but Layne herself even knows that she was under-utilized. In an already under-representing industry, the constant and even overlooked silencing of black female voices hits hard.
For all of its chaos, Don’t Worry Darling does hold up if you’d like to be clued in on the product of this insanity. Outside Don’t Worry Darling, though, KiKi Layne recently had roles in Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers and If Beale Street Could Talk, streaming on Disney + and Netflix, respectively. Her parts are much more present in these films, so I would recommend watching them, too.
Emily Hanson is the Arts and Leisure Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.