A lot can be said about what happened behind the scenes of “Don’t Worry Darling” and during the press tour of that same movie, but we’re not here to talk about that. Although that gossip and the conversations about ‘did he do it or not?’ might be much more interesting than the film itself. While “Don’t Worry Darling” can count on a stunning Florence Pugh and an incredibly stylish look, they can’t save this Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart”) movie due to the not-so-great third act and the completely underuse of the talent.
“Don’t Worry Darling” takes you to the perfectly designed town called Victory. Every day feels the same. Men leave for work and are off to what’s called the Victory Project while the wives kiss them goodbye before embarking on a day full of cleaning, cooking, gossiping and a lot of day drinking.
One of those housewives is Alice Chamber (Florence Pugh), who slowly but steadily begins to suspect that her lavishing lifestyle with her husband Jack (Harry Styles) isn’t all it seems. The village is filled with beautiful houses, loving couples and lavish parties. However, Alice can’t shake the feeling that something is off, especially when the (cult) leader Frank (Chris Pine), is gaining more power.
Whenever she tries to talk to someone about it, they brush it off, blame it on the stress or tell her straight that she’s going crazy. The more Alice is convinced that Victory isn’t what people say they are, the more she spirals out of control according to the rest of the chic (predominantly patriarchal) society. How long will this go on for Alice before someone believes her or before she becomes completely insane?
From the start, it’s clear that Wilde wants to take on the tyranny of the patriarchy in this movie. Men are going to their top-secret jobs without their wives knowing what they do (as long as they bring in the money), while women are being reduced to housewives who do nothing besides cleaning, chatting, cooking and pleasing their husbands.
We’ve seen these topics and situations in so many movies, but if “Don’t Worry Darling” had been great, the recycled topics wouldn’t have bothered us. However, there are just too many flaws and inconsistencies to forgive Wilde in this predictable film.
The biggest issue is undoubtedly that unhinged and unbalanced script. While “Don’t Worry Darling” starts well. There’s that sinister vibe, the ‘is it as good as it seems?’ question, and Alice trying to navigate a society that’s not what it seems. But the more Alice’s life is sparling out of control, the less power the director has over this film. This results in “Don’t Worry Darling” repeating itself, a relatively flat and monotonous plot without any real depth and a third act in which Wilde loses sight of her storytelling completely.
Another aspect why “Don’t Worry Darling” can never fully grasp your attention is the miscasting. Styles (“Dunkirk”) isn’t just strong enough as an actor to take on the male lead. While Jack feels like a working man with a lot of secretive layers, you won’t be able to discover them due to the inexperienced Styles.
Yes, he has gorgeous suits and sleek features, but not the necessary amount of emotional depth and intensity. Someone who oozes charisma and sleaziness is Pine (“Wonder Woman”, “Hell or High Water”) as the mastermind behind the Victory Project. While you might not see much of Frank at first, once he comes eye-to-eye with Alice, the chemistry between Pine and Pugh take the movie to new heights.
Wilde (“Richard Jewell”, “Life Itself”) herself plays Bunny, Alice’s next-door neighbour, who undoubtedly brings some enjoyable moments, humour and sassiness to the otherwise mysterious and monotone world.
Most of this movie is told through Alice’s perspective, and thank goodness for Pugh (“Midsommar”, “Black Widow”)! As always, she delivers an out-of-this-world performance and single-handily carries the movie to the end. She makes you worry about Alice, makes you feel what she goes through, and no matter how little you support about the rest of the characters and plot, you still want to sit through the whole movie to find out what happens to Alice. Her powerhouse acting makes from this unwatchable story a watchable film.
What’s also on point are the impeccable visuals. Thanks to the polished cinematography from Matthew Libatique (“Black Swan”, “A Star Is Born”), Katie Byron (“C’mon C’mon”, “Zola”) her stunning production design and incredible costumes by Arianne Phillips (“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, “A Single Man”), “Don’t Worry Darling” becomes a dazzling movie.
Unfortunately, while those visuals are incredibly stylish for most of the film, they lose their appeal once Wild relies too heavily on them. The black-and-white images of the Busby Berkeley-style dancers, the close-ups of the emotional faces or just the psychedelic videos aren’t as effective as they could have been if they were used correctly and in proportion.
While “Don’t Worry Darling” ticks off many boxes, such as the stunning imagery, gorgeous costume design and strong lead performance, it doesn’t become an engaging film. It wants to take on the patriarchy, but to do that, it lacks true soul, strong performers and a female director who knows what she wants.
“Don’t Worry Darling” is out now in U.K. cinemas
23rd September 2022
THE QUICK SELL
A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets.