Even though the talented team behind Don’t Worry Darling may not have gotten the “memo” about their clever title (if the “reported” drama behind the scenes is any indication), everyone was still excited to see the film because of the brilliant performance by Olivia Wilde.
Olivia Wilde follows up the astoundingly endearing Booksmart, her first attempt at directing a feature film, with this psychological thriller starring a dream cast, including the sensational Florence Pugh and the pop icon-cum-budding actor Harry Styles. The question is whether or not Don’t Worry Darling delivers on the promise made. What is the answer?
To cut a long story short, in Don’t Worry Darling, we are introduced to the Mad Men–Esque, the utopian world named Victory, complete with a sundrenched, palm desert–style landscape. Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh), Jack Chambers’s charismatic housewife, is our primary protagonist (Harry Styles).
Jack is the breadwinner, as was customary in the 1950s, and he works for the Victory Project, the nature of which is so nebulous that not even Alice knows for sure what he does. She is not permitted to visit the James Bond-themed Victory headquarters or ask any questions.
On the other hand, Alice is the quintessential housewife, adhering to the same meticulous routine day in and day out in order to ensure her husband’s happiness. Say goodbye to Jack as he leaves for work, spend the day at the pool with friends or out shopping and performing ballet, and then rush home to clean and cook for her dear husband with lustful intentions.
This is then followed by all the wives in the community, where anarchy is considered a cardinal sin. Jack’s boss, the calculating Frank (Chris Pine), is leading the charge to victory with an air of unflappable confidence reminiscent of a cult leader.
But Alice’s idyllic existence starts to crumble when her best friend Margaret (KiKi Layne) starts acting in ways that aren’t in the script.
After a while, Alice, in full-on detective mode, uncovers unsettling details about her “Wonderland,” which is exactly the opposite of what Jack wants.
A rebellious Alice emerges at the same time that Jack’s true intentions become clear.
Olivia Wilde tries her hardest in her latest film, Don’t Worry Darling, but the underlying story is the sexism of the highest order, which makes the film feel dated no matter what decade it was made in. Wilde does a good job at the helm, but the film is let down by a lackluster script by Katie Silberman.
Don’t Worry Darling’s first act is flashy and extravagant but lackluster because only Alice’s character arc is interesting. Unfortunately, Harry Styles’ Jack, who was cast as the antagonist, is one of the characters who don’t get the same treatment as the vengeful Frank. Even though the second half is significantly stronger, the climax fails to satisfy enough for you to care deeply by the end.
Though it has many twists and turns, Don’t Worry Darling doesn’t weave itself seriously as it builds up its feminist-vs-patriarchal allegory and instead stumbles through them.
Don’t Worry Darling wasn’t a total bust, though; it had the help of the enchanting Florence Pugh, whose performance was the film’s greatest strength.
Chris Pine is just as captivating, showing once again what a talented actor he is behind those stunning blue eyes. The best parts are when this dynamic duo is on screen together. Even though Jack isn’t written as well as was initially teased, Harry Styles, of One Direction, brings an old-school lead actor charm in his sincere performance.
Like Gemma Chan’s Shelley, Frank’s wife, Olivia Wilde is great as Alice’s best friend Bunny, but neither of them is given enough screen time to really connect. Considering the pivotal role Chan plays in the film’s climax, this reviewer would have liked to see her character explored more thoroughly.
The success of “Don’t Worry, Darling” continues. The thrilling final minutes are especially heightened by the outstanding score by John Powell, which adds an overdramatic undertone to the film. Expert costuming by Arianne Phillips, especially from Florence Pugh (who wears some truly breathtaking gowns),
adds momentum to the mystery surrounding the Victory Project (though one “shaggy” Harry Styles avatar is questionably hilarious and begging to be meme-ed). Matthew Libatique’s experimental cinematography and Katie Byron’s intricate production design bring Olivia Wilde’s vision of Victory to the big screen, and they are exquisite even when they are in your face with recurring dream imagery.
Plot Vs Pugh
It’s a good thing that Pugh is the focus of so much of the film because she’s the highlight. While the middle of the film is slow (there’s a point where the story basically resets and starts over), and the end throws almost everything at the wall (a bunch of bad guys in red jumpsuits! An exciting car chase! (Is that a body in the road?) In any situation, she manages to be fascinating and interesting.
Styles is perfectly serviceable opposite her; his casting actually makes more sense as the film goes, with a late development entertainingly undercutting both his role here and his public persona. And while Pine’s syrupy smooth performance doesn’t seem to be that of a recognizable human, he seems to be enjoying himself immensely.
All of them, unfortunately, have the kind of plot that can only be sustained by forward momentum. It all falls apart almost immediately after it is revealed, and the explanations only serve to raise more questions.
The problem is that the point that is being made is so blatantly obvious that it doesn’t really work with the story that is being told. You could deliver the same moral lesson with even more force if the 1950s suburban dream was something completely different, but the real downside to living in Victory (at least for Alice) has nothing to do with the lifestyle being lived in Victory.
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As for the positives, I feel that credit should be given where it is due, and I must say that Don’t Worry Darling is an entertaining and audacious film with many admirable qualities.
The acting is superb, particularly from Florence Pugh and Chris Pine. Styles also does surprisingly well, as he is an engaging and intriguing protagonist.
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