'Don't Worry Darling' Review
September 23, 2022
No film has ever pushed the quote “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” more to the limit than Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling. So much has happened over the past few months that Cosmopolitan was able to make a full in-depth timeline, which is still ongoing. It wouldn’t be an understatement to expect the film to get its own Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse sometime in the future. And it also wouldn’t be an understatement to think that Wilde wants that documentary to happen so people will have something to remember Don’t Worry Darling, because the movie itself is nothing more than middling.
It’s a Mad Men world for Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) as they start their new lives in the sun-drenched valley paradise known as Victory. Where it’s precisely located and how it got there is never explained, nor is it allowed to be questioned. The only strings attached to this haven are that you never ask anything, such as how the men spend their time, where the food comes from, or why everyone has the same memories before they got here. Your only duty is to conform, be supportive, and worship the project’s leader, Frank (Chris Pine), who’s viewed and behaves like the second coming of Christ.
For Alice, these duties unlock everything she’s ever wanted. She has a great husband, a great house, and great friends. It’s all so perfect. This is why things seem so odd when her neighbor, Margaret (KiKi Layne), begins questioning everything. Just as if she was transmitting the common cold, Margaret’s skepticism makes its way into Alice’s head, leading her down a dark path to learning the truth about this modern utopia.
On a purely productional level, Don’t Worry Darling is quite the accomplishment for Wilde. The period-accurate clothes and needle drops are a far cry from the modern teenage angst she announced her auteur status within Booksmart. The influences of Stanley Kubrick and Darren Aronofksy are easy to spot with the impressive sound and camera work. Those qualities should come as no surprise considering Wilde recruited regular Aronofsky cinematographer Matthew Libatique to lens her film.
As a director, she lets the hysteria build and builds, waiting for us to beg for it to be released. But when that moment comes for Wilde to make her big swing, she manages to only hit a single instead of the expected home run. Because just like the town of Victory itself, Don’t Worry Darling often comes across as empty despite being littered with pretty sights (there’s even an unintentionally fitting scene where Alice cracks eggs, only for it to be revealed they’re empty).
Reteaming with her Booksmart writer, Katie Silberman, Wilde’s interrogation of women’s societal roles and the men that oppress them is nothing that hasn’t been done before. Hell, works such as The Stepford Wives, The Truman Show, and even WandaVision have asked similar questions using a similar concept. Even though it’s all impressively done, there’s always this nagging feeling of being there, done that.
That feeling also permeates the casting of Harry Styles as Jack, who’s been written as British, most likely to cover over Styles' inability to pick which accent he should be using. A stunt cast such as this may help the box office numbers, but it doesn’t help Florence Pugh, who’s left all alone to keep this ship from sinking under the weight of its ill-advised ambitions. Pugh seemingly can do no wrong, whether it be large-scale work in Black Widow or on a smaller level in Fighting with My Family. And considering the impressive work she did pulling apart at the seams for Ari Aster in Midsommar, this performance comes across as child’s play for her.
Luckily, she has an equal in Chris Pine as the charismatic Frank. Pine has always been an actor that was cursed by his good looks, as it meant he was forced to play leading parts when he works much better as a character actor. Brad Pitt is another actor in a similar situation. In the brief scenes he shares with Pugh, Pine brings that tech-guru/crypto-bro smarmy charm that makes you believe why people worship him, while at the same time, you just want to punch him in his perfect teeth.
If your intention of seeing Don’t Worry Darling is to look at beautiful people in beautiful clothes living in beautiful houses, Olivia Wilde supplies that in spades. But if you intend to see something that digs a little deeper under the surface and provokes ideas that haven't been explored by numerous other (and better) films, then you may want to start worrying.