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Olivia Wilde’s psychological thriller will probably end up being more famous for its off-screen antics than its on-screen exploits – which are ultimately of a mixed bag.

While undoubtedly the headline-grabbing reports of ‘screaming matches’ between director Wilde – star of such films as Tron: Legacy and In Time – and lead actress Florence Pugh (Black Widow); an alleged ‘spitting incident’ between male stars Harry Styles – formerly of One Direction fame and coincidentally Wilde’s partner – and Chris Pine (Star Trek), and the erratic Shia LaBeouf’s early ‘sacking’, got more ‘eyeballs’ in the cinemas due to the media attention – it’s still an intriguing effort in its own right.

But if director Wilde thought this The Truman Show-crossed-with-The Stepford Wives drama was going to get awards season attention, it sadly isn’t as good as she ‘thinks it is’ – with too many moving parts to bring it together as a coherent cinematic piece.

Credit where credit is due though, as Wilde tries to bring together some neat ideas in the idyllic 1950s-set American utopia of Victory.

Styles and Pugh star as young couple Jack and Alice, living in this experimental desert-set white picket fence community, where the husbands go to work on a top-secret project run by founder Frank (Pine) – while the wives wait patiently, socialise and do ballet through the day, and dote on their men when they come home.

But alas, not all is what it seems, which comes to a head when Kiki Layne’s Margaret starts asking questions – which soon leads to Alice following suit.

What ensues is a cleverly disturbing tale that slowly evolves into a mind-bending experience – but only some of the ideas stick when thrown at the wall. And it comes complete with crazy Harry Styles dancing and a notable soundtrack too.

Pugh and Styles (to a point) impress – alongside the noteworthy Pine – and it all evolves into an intermittently fascinating story, without really getting the pay-off fully fleshed out.

Many questions remain unanswered, but getting there is still a watchable affair, albeit nothing ultimately groundbreaking – with many objectives never being wholly fleshed out.

Which leaves this movie probably more worrying about the attention from the outside – that detracts from what was worthwhile on the inside.

ESP Rating: 3/5

Gavin Miller

Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now

Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll & Kiki Layne

Running Time: 2 Hrs 3 Mins

Director: Olivia Wilde

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