“Don’t Worry Darling” isn’t the massive mess that so many predicted, but it does suffer from a few major problems. The script (written by Katie Silberman) lacks grace and polish, one star’s questionable acting skills is amplified by the other lead’s performance, and Olivia Wilde‘s direction is noticeably weak. But there’s still something mesmerizing about this feminist-tinged film and its commentary on the supposed ideals of a patriarchal society.
Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) live a charmed life in the experimental utopia known as Victory. The town is exclusively for employees of the top-secret Victory Project and their families, and it’s truly the most perfect place in the world — or so it seems. Company CEO Frank (Chris Pine) is the visionary behind it all, a stylish, confident leader whom the men all want to emulate. He provides everything the town’s residents need, asking only for loyalty and obedience in return.
Victory is a place that embodies the idyllic 1950s life, where the women cook and clean, dress to perfection, and spend their free time day drinking, lounging by the pool, and gossiping with friends. The men fulfill their role in this society too, by going to work at the mysterious headquarters and returning like clockwork in the evenings. It’s a don’t ask, don’t tell type of community, until Alice begins having strange, nightmarish visions. She begins to explore the more sinister side of Victory, hoping to eventually expose what’s really going on beneath the facade of domestic bliss.
The plot is one that’s been done before, and there isn’t much by way of originality. What makes the first part of the film so successful is that the story is told from the point of view of the women in town. By presenting the narrative through the lens of an army of happy homemaker wives, there’s an ominous tone throughout — especially when the ladies in town turn to self-harm in order to take back control of their lives.
Alice is a strong female character, and Pugh proves yet again that she’s one of the most exciting talents working in Hollywood today. Much is asked of her and she is up to the task of doing the heavy lifting here, especially in her many scenes with Styles. To put it bluntly, Pugh acts Styles under the table and then some. I believe the film would have been more successful with a more talented leading man.
When the ending finally comes through a long drawn out reveal, it’s a letdown that feels like an episode of “Black Mirror.” If you examine some of the film’s earlier scenes, the story doesn’t feel quite as airtight as it should.
The themes are excessive and overdone, presenting the conservative male ideal of relationships and life. It’s a chilling statement about women’s rights and responsibilities, and men’s desire to control and dominate. The timing for this message couldn’t be more perfect with the tumultuous political climate that’s spreading around the world. As a woman, I appreciate the sentiment of “Don’t Worry Darling” and the feminist lens in which its presented, but I just wish the film had been more successful overall.