Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling made an underwhelming debut after months of anticipation from Harry Styles lovers and cinephiles alike. While it was entertaining, Wilde’s creation was nothing more than a stale psycho-thriller with an unusually attractive cast.
Don’t Worry Darling is set in 1950s Victory, California, a cookie-cutter community where uniformity, discretion, and routine are valued above all else. At multiple times throughout the film, the leaders of the community robotically recite mantras like, “There is beauty in control. There is grace in symmetry. We move as one.”
In keeping with the period, the women spend their days tidying their homes and preparing dinner, anxiously awaiting the return of their hard-working husbands, all of whom are employed by the mysterious Victory Project.
The film follows Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles), a young, seemingly perfect couple. Strange occurrences and visions cause Alice to question her reality and push back against the status quo, leaving her life and relationships in jeopardy.
Alice starts to sense that something’s wrong when another woman publicly challenges Victory’s leader, Frank (Chris Pine), and the society he created. While her friends dismiss the woman’s behavior as insane, Alice is sympathetic towards her. Her sympathy soon turns to empathy when she witnesses multiple inexplicable disasters that prompt her to ask similar questions. However, Jack and her best friend Bunny (Olivia Wilde), attempt to convince her that she’s imagining things in an effort to silence her.
The film was occasionally thought-provoking, especially because Victory isn’t an overtly repressive society. Outside of the uniformity of life and lack of privacy, residents aren’t confronted with the strict, overbearing rules that are typical of dystopias. As a result, the Pleasantville-like world seen in the movie doesn’t seem implausible, which prompts viewers to ask themselves some of the same questions as Alice.
Viewers weren’t given a lot of background information about the characters and because of the nature of the psycho-thriller genre, it was hard to make sense of things for the first half of the film. While flashbacks were used towards the end as a useful tool to inform the audience of Alice and Jack’s pre-Victory life, it would’ve been beneficial to our understanding of the characters if Wilde started weaving them into the plot earlier.
Even as Alice and the audience become more aware of what’s going on behind the scenes in Victory, many of the initial things that contributed to Alice’s paranoia and curiosity were left unaddressed. Oddities, like hollow eggs, random earthquakes, and a plane crash, are never explained. These occurrences poke holes in the plot twist at the end of the film and leave the audience searching for answers.
The audience was forced to watch Alice teeter on the brink of insanity for far too long. It was interesting to watch how Alice’s behavior got riskier as her doubts grew stronger, but the middle of the film was unnecessarily long and only highlighted how rushed the ending was.
Pugh gave a convincing performance of a spiraling woman trying to make sense of the world, all while being gaslit by her husband and closest friend. Despite extensive criticism of Styles’ acting, there was nothing offensive about it. Much like the film itself, his performance was forgettable. Pine, on the other hand, skillfully played the role of a power-hungry alpha male.
One notable aspect of the film was the cinematography. The repeated inclusion of shots of the men leaving their homes for work and waving goodbye to their dolled-up wives in unison captured the cyclical nature of life in Victory. The image of the men leaving the cul-de-sac and driving into the desert to get to the Victory Headquarters was a powerful touch, as it symbolized the harsh separation between their home and work lives.
Besides compelling shots and a killer wardrobe, everything about Don’t Worry Darling was mediocre. The characters were underdeveloped, the dialogue wasn’t particularly memorable, and at times the film moved slowly. However, I would undoubtedly jump at the chance to stare at Harry Styles on the big screen for another two hours and three minutes.
Where to Watch
Don’t Worry Darling
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Railroad Square Cinema
17 Railroad Square, Waterville
247 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville
23 Market Place Drive, Augusta
~ Claire Campbell `26