‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is a movie I was excited to see long before the drama-fueled narrative around it. The follow-up to the 2019 hit ‘Booksmart‘ from Olivia Wilde being this mystery thriller starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles? There was no way on Earth I wasn’t going to watch this movie. When the promotional campaign started, it transformed into this unbelievable mess that you just couldn’t look away from. Names being shortened and uttered with attitude, video chats being leaked, stars supposedly spitting on co-stars, the lead of the film backing out of the promotional campaign. This is what pop culture has been missing and it seems audiences have missed it too as the opening weekend for this movie was very successful. Loads of people coming in with Harry Styles merch coming to support their idol then leaving perplexed, lying betwixt laughter and shock.
spoilers for ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ are featured in this review.
To briefly explain the plot of ‘Don’t Worry Darling’, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) live together in the idyllic, 1950s-infused all-American suburban streets of The Victory Project. The husbands leave for work early in the morning and return at night fueled with hunger and lust. The wives, however, can never leave the borders of The Victory Project, it is the one rule that is mandatory. They stay at home to cook and clean and occasionally go to their dance classes or to the pool to have a chat. It is a picture-perfect reality… for some but not for Margaret who begins to advise the wives that something is wrong and that they are actually trapped, this prompts Alice to start questioning her own life. Multiple visions and traumatic situations later, Alice is convinced that there is more than meets the eye to The Victory Project and she would be right.
In typical fashion, me and the friend I went with, were running for our lives trying to make it on time for this movie, we missed the opening credits but I’m sure we only missed a couple shots like we made it just in time. Immediately, you get the tone this movie is going for and that is, well it’s not subtle at all, in fact, it’s quite in your face and obvious. It’s almost sitcom-like at times with the line delivery and mannerisms which could be intentional but given the story, I thought it was jarring at first but given the twist, I can see why that decision was made. What was more shocking to me however was how quickly the movie got into the gimmicks, you know the bits in the trailer that everyone wanted to see. The bit where Florence Pugh cracks multiple eggshells and there’s nothing inside, or where she almost gets squished to death by the wall or where she wraps cellophane around her head and can’t breathe. These all happen in the movie and to tell you the truth I still cannot explain to you what the meaning behind them is. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention or maybe they were just there to amp up the tension and mystery element which worked but at what cost if they felt shallow?
When it comes to plot and concepts, ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is admittedly intriguing, there are a number of ideas here with lots of potential but unfortunately, the execution is where the film fails. The huge twist at the end, where it’s revealed that The Victory Project is actually a simulation designed by Frank, none of it is real. Jack has essentially forced Alice to live in this simulation without any recollection of her actual life out of insecurity, jealousy and selfishness because, in the real world, Alice was too busy working thirty-hour shifts for them to get by to sleep with him. To me, that is insane, that this is where the movie hinges on, pathetic, insecure men. There is nothing really empowering about this movie because for most of the runtime, these women are forced to fit their husband’s idea of a perfect wife with no choice, rights or voice. The quote from Olivia Wilde that “men don’t come here” doesn’t really do anything when it’s the men’s choice on when, where and how to have sex with their wives in this simulation.
The movie’s downfall ultimately bleeds down to the pacing and writing with tons of questions left unanswered and an ending that is so rushed, it leaves the viewer dissatisfied. The movie’s insistence that it’s a feminist work backfires immensely with the only women of colour in the movie having their roles reduced to a fragment. KiKi Layne’s Margeret is the jumping point of the story yet her character doesn’t really get a chance to be explored properly. There is even proof from Layne’s Instagram posts that her and Ari’el Stachel’s roles were reduced significantly in the final cut. Even Gemma Chan’s character gets the bare minimum of a character, in fact she only really does two things in the movie that are worth noting, scolding Alice in the very juicy dinner scene and then stabbing Frank, her husband to death and claiming that it’s her turn now. Only the movie never explains anything beyond that, is she going to take over ‘The Victory Project’, is she closing it down? Will she awaken the other wives up from this horrid nightmare? The same goes for Olivia Wilde’s character who feels like she should have a prominent role but never quite gets it, she gets a line at the end that she is choosing to stay in the simulation because she can be with her deceased children again. That’s an interesting concept but again, the movie never really does anything with it, that concept begins and ends with that line.
All of this being said, I don’t think ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is this horrible, atrocious movie that everyone’s making it out to be. Despite all of the problems I have with it, I was perfectly entertained the entire time, even with the pacing issues I never found myself getting bored and considering it’s longer than two hours, that’s impressive. The movie also looks visually stunning, from the sets to the costumes and hair and especially with how it’s shot, it’s just a good-looking movie. The acting, oh the acting. The perfect scene to describe the acting in this movie is the dinner scene I mentioned earlier. Florence Pugh and Chris Pine are on fire, going at each other in a hypnotizing way, what’s great about it though is that they don’t try to outact one another, they truly feel like equals in that scene. I was on the edge of my seat watching them go back and forth, the people sitting around them, however, well they were great, Harry Styles, however, he is actually quite fine in this role but his acting in this particular scene was just not where it needed to be. He is nowhere near as bad as everyone is saying, he’s just a bit bland and dull at times. Also that prolonged dancing sequence… it’s safe to say me and that friend were going to die (from laughter that is). In fact, there were a few chuckles during Styles’ scenes which was quite funny honestly.
Overall, I appreciate the originality of this movie, I appreciate the attempt and I would go so far as to say that I would watch ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ again. The acting is, for the most part, great. It’s a visual treat and even if the story runs off the rails in the end, it’s still entertaining nevertheless. However, the fact that some people are comparing to ‘The Matrix’, and while I can see why that movie has a much better grasp on its two leads than this movie ever does. If I had to compare this movie to another, it would actually be ‘Last Night in Soho‘ by Edgar Wright. Both movies have such great concepts but unfortunately get demolished by the end. It’s a movie where the concept and the potential is much more powerful than the final product itself.
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is out now in cinemas.