Always a sophisticated beauty, Julie Christie was at the height of her powers in 1965's Darling, every bit the glowing Pandora that separates husbands from families, lures playboys and princes, and lights up advertisements and gossip rags. More than just a pretty face, she's also a keen and substantive screen presence, which explains why she not only survived the film's haughty contempt for her character, but also went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress. Without Christie's star power, would people still remember Darling as a sophisticated social satire about empty ambition, decaying mores, and the cult of celebrity? Or, more likely, would they spot the worms populating its core? As directed by the late John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) and written by Oscar-winner Frederic Raphael (Eyes Wide Shut), the film now seems like a Mod-era relic, a glib and reactionary white elephant that feigns hipness in order to advance its own prudish moral agenda. The opening-credits sequence, in which a billboard of Christie's glamorous face is pasted over emaciated Africans in a "World Relief" banner, crudely sets the tone: Why should anyone care about pretty socialites when there are people starving in the world? Pretty and blank, models make easy placards for an artist's message, but Schlesinger and Raphael get more than they bargained for with Christie, who's painted as a dead-eyed villain, but emerges as the film's lone sympathetic character. After using esteemed TV reporter Dirk Bogarde to help launch her career, Christie convinces the family man to leave his wife and children and move into a swanky London flat with her. Eager to climb the social ladder, Christie soon abandons Bogarde for suave, greasy playboy Laurence Harvey, who introduces her to a jet-setting, orgiastic lifestyle. Before long, her thoughtless ambition leads to flirtations with a top-flight photographer and finally the crown prince of Italy, who attempts to acquire her as a trophy wife. Perhaps serving as Raphael's alter ego, Bogarde's literate reporter-turned-author gets cast as the film's moral center, quietly tsk-ing when Christie feeds him lies and declares "I hate books" while petulantly knocking his masterworks off the shelves. But next to stiffs like Bogarde and Harvey, the charismatic Christie gets every last morsel of affection, even when she sneaks off for a "miscarriage" or hosts a snooty benefit catered by black servants in powdered wigs. Her character is shallow, callous, and miserable, but next to Darling's arch snobbery, she comes across comparatively well.