'Don't Worry Darling' Leaves Its Best Drama Off Screen

Directed by Olivia Wilde

Starring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, Chris Pine

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

BY Rachel HoPublished Sep 23, 2022

Given all the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding Don't Worry Darling, it was almost inevitable that the film itself wouldn't be nearly as interesting as the gossip. And it isn't that the film isn't particularly interesting — it's just kind of dumb. The kind of movie that gets dumber the more you think about it.

The film starts off promising enough: in a small community called Victory, seemingly located in the middle of a desert, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) are living their best 1950s lives. As Jack and the rest of the men in the neighbourhood go off to work, Alice and the women clean their homes, go to ballet class and live a life of leisure. When Jack returns from the office, Alice is sure to greet him at the door, cocktail in hand, hair and makeup done impeccably, with the smell of a perfectly cooked dinner filling the home.

Each day plays out in the same idyllic way until cracks start to appear that Alice can't ignore any longer. As she begins to unravel exactly what Victory is and the motivations of Frank (Chris Pine), the apparent head of the utopia, Alice finds herself in danger of exposing too much.

There is a big reveal in the film that is meant to be thought provoking and meditative, but instead comes across as benign and completely unaffecting. Such a plot twist would be at home in an after school special or made-for-TV holiday movie, it's silly and grasping at philosophical straws that just aren't there. It does, at least, explain away Styles's accent wavering in the film.

Speaking of Styles, his performance isn't nearly as bad as the film's trailers and clips suggested. It's true he doesn't have the same presence on screen as he does on stage, but he isn't a complete loss as Jack. He fits in well with the 1950s vibe, and his acting is never a distraction — but when paired up with an actress like Florence Pugh, it's hard not to see his deficiencies as an actor.

Pugh is, without a doubt, one of the best actresses of her generation. Her ability to sink into a character and mould herself to any given time period is truly impressive. But, try as she might, even Miss Flo can't make the material in this film work.

Don't Worry Darling has the makings of a good movie. The Stepford Wives and The Truman Show show the potential of idealized family life spoiled by the perturbing thoughts that something is not quite right. A great deal of political and social commentary can be made in such a story archetype, but Olivia Wilde doesn't manage to stick that landing. Her interpretation, instead, comes across as vapid and corny.

Visually, though, Wilde does a good job making the 1950s pop on screen. The vivid colours and shapes of the era's fashion, cars and architecture bring the audience back to a time of simplicity and vintage grandeur that's in stark contrast to our dressed-down ways of today. Additionally, the costuming for all of the actors is on point, lending an authenticity to the proceedings that fights against the unsettling sense throughout the film that something is amiss.

Wilde's sophomore effort really had its back up against the wall. It's unfortunate when a film is negatively affected by nattering gossip columns — but even without the name-calling and receipts, Don't Worry Darling just isn't very good.
(Warner Bros.)

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