London model Diana Scott becomes an overnight celebrity when she moves in with married TV commentator Robert Gold, only to drift into movies and dead-end relationships with PR maven Miles Brand and Italian nobleman, Cesare.
In some ways, Darling appears to be a film 40 years ahead of its time, as only now is the public so fully aware of the luvviness and sham glamour of the fame game. But for all its dogged determination to hold up a mirror to the Swinging Sixties, this has more in common with `angry young men' movies like Room at the Top and This Sporting Life than such chic contemporary pictures as Georgy Girl and Blow-Up.
Director John Schlesinger and Oscar-winning scenarist Frederic Raphael sought to shock with their discussion of promiscuity, homosexuality, infidelity and abortion. But The Wednesday Play on the BBC was then addressing similar issues with considerably more grit and insight. Indeed, there's a smug satisfaction about the cynicism and satire, which undermines potentially excruciating sequences like the suburban dinner party and the charity ball at which liggers and wannabes gorge themselves in the cause of famine relief. Schlesinger's visual style is equally out of step with its trendy ambitions. Apeing the nouvelle vague, he employs handheld camera, accelerated motion, freeze frames and jump cuts, but the Hollywood montage sequence chronicling Robert and Diana's social whirl feels like a relic from the 1930s. Moreover, the soundtrack is positively antedeluvian in its avoidance of pop music. It's as though Raphael and Schlesinger were attempting different things with the same story. The former seems content to set up celebrity clichés and caricatures solely for the amusement of knocking them down, while the latter takes a less sardonic approach by striving to show that this world of frivolity and exploitation actually damages those who can't hack its excesses and cruelties. Yet, even though the Oscar-winning Christie and the bored-looking Bogarde are ultimately casualties of the spiritedly amoral Harvey's PR machine, it's hard to feel much pity for them.
Interesting portrait of the shallow nature of fame but overall this fails to engage on an emotional level.