“Don’t Worry Darling” is Beautifully Shot but Just Doesn’t Deliver
Synopsis: A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets.
Director: Olivia Wilde
Stars: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan
There has been a lot of hype and controversy around this film. The trailer looks very interesting, but much of the chatter has been about the offscreen drama: Did Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine? Why hasn’t Florence Pugh been actively promoting the film? What happened with Shia LaBeouf?
All valid questions, I suppose, and none that will be answered in this review. Instead, let’s focus on the movie, shall we?
We meet Alice (Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Styles), a happily married couple living in a community called Victory. Victory has a solid Stepford Wives feeling to it. Each day, the men of the community head out to work, and the women walk their husbands to their cars, say goodbye, and head back into their houses to start cleaning; all of this is done in unison. The men then drive, individually, from the bright neighbourhood to the office in the middle of the desert. (Why don’t they carpool?)
Jack is doing well in the organization and has caught the attention of the leader Frank (Chris Pine). While most people become speechless in Frank’s presence, Jack’s confidence gets him through.
You would think the monotony of doing the same thing every day would get to Alice, but she seems to be doing well until she meets Margaret, a woman from Victory who is having an adverse reaction to the community. Margaret basically plays the role of Andrew from Get Out; she tries to issue warnings but is dismissed until Alice witnesses a tragic accident involving her.
Alice grows increasingly uncomfortable with their living situation, but her concerns fall on deaf ears. Her husband is more interested in keeping his boss happy, not his wife.
Don’t Worry Darling is a double edge sword. On the one hand, it is beautifully shot. Matthew Libatique, the cinematographer for Black Swan and A Star is Born, has crafted a beautiful film. The colours are vibrant that mix well with the costume design from Arianne Phillips. The score by John Powell is also accurate for the film's theme — it's haunting at times.
When it comes to the acting, Pugh and Pine’s performances aside, the cast is wasted. I was in an audience of predominantly Harry Styles fans, and even they broke into laughter when he delivered serious lines. Why? His character isn’t interesting. I am not submitting the pop-star-turned-actor can’t act. His performance in the upcoming My Policeman proves he can, and the fact that Christopher Nolan cast him in Dunkirk shows he can. This wasn’t a great performance.
I had little to no interest in what the other characters were doing as I didn’t find them interesting. Instead, they are versions of characters I have seen time and time again.
The best actor on the canvas is Pugh, who continues to add to her impressive body of work. Her performances are always stellar, and this one is no exception. Unfortunately, it turns into something of a one-woman show.
I have been critical of actors who sit in the directors’ chair, and I’m left somewhat confused here. I saw Wilde’s last film Booksmart, and I know she can make a good movie; she didn’t with Don’t Worry Darling.
There are clear influences to Stepford Wives and Suspiria, but this movie never carves out its own niche. The film ends more abruptly than the end of The Sopranos. The audience is left wondering . . . Wait . . . that’s it? — These are words overheard in the theatre!
I saw a special IMAX screening of the film—not that special and not in IMAX—where several of the cast members were present for a Q&A. Most of the cast in attendance for the Q&A barely had any material in the film. The main star wasn’t present, and while we aren’t going to talk about why Pugh isn’t actively promoting it, I can say that I wouldn’t be quick to promote this film either. I would take my cheque and move on.
Don’t Worry Darling has had a lot of hype around it, and it doesn’t deliver. In the film, Alice just wants to get away. After seeing the movie, I can understand why.
Watch the movie trailer: