Reviews | Written by Jack Bottomley 27/09/2022

DON’T WORRY DARLING

Seriously, how did we get here? In a year of highs, lows and bloody silliness, how did Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling become more catty and dramatic than a season finale of Dynasty? You just never can predict this stuff sometimes. Anyway, cutting through Warner Brothers’ PR suicide of late, the festival spitting allegations, on-set fallouts and screaming matches and, erm, TikTok mockery, how is the actual movie? Well, we wish we could give you a straight answer, but we can’t.

Set in a 1950s utopian suburban setting in a new experimental desert community, Don’t Worry Darling shows us a family and community living the dream. Friends are all around, the cocktails keep on pouring and the wives and husbands go about their respective duties in perfect harmony. But when Alice (Florence Pugh) starts noticing a few things that seem off, she starts questioning just what her husband Jack (Harry Styles) and all the others exactly do in their job everyday, and whether this town called Victory is as glamorous as it really seems on the surface.

We are genuinely unsure of how to even begin to unpick Don't Worry Darling. On one hand, it is not the disaster the ludicrously non-stop drama behind the scenes would suggest it may become, and yet neither is anywhere near a cult classic in the making either. In fact, all told, it’s disappointingly forgettable once you are out of the cinematorium. 

Treading further into sci-fi/psychological horror drama as it proceeds, with its utopia-turned-dystopia story, Don’t Worry Darling dips its feet into the psychedelic sci-fi genre output of the ‘70s but doesn’t quite get it right. Lacking the shock and darkness to linger. Wilde’s film is undeniably interesting but inescapably flawed, conjuring some arresting imagery but landing at a “that’s your lot” finish with a great big indifferent thud. 

It is all a bit like Darren Aronofsky's Mother (the film not Mrs Arronofsky that is!), albeit nowhere near as teeth-grindingly pretentious, in that it tells a purposely slow and frustrating story to illustrate a point, although you will have to be the judge on whether the journey was one worth taking. 

It is a Stepford Wives-laced offering, which has some strong moments but also feels as though the destination alluded to is kind of guessable in a sense but still under-delivered, leaving major plot holes along the way, not to mention a lot of unresolved and rather important questions (many presented as crucial). The setups are there but Katie Silberman’s screenplay never really brings it together, while Wild certainly has an artistic eye but often dwells on that aesthetic rather than moving things compellingly to a richly realised final act. To be honest, we have seen this kind of thing done better before too. Which doesn’t help.

Thankfully, Florence Pugh ensures the film has class, in her fantastic all-in performance that never wavers. She really does carry the film entirely on her shoulders, so much so that her co-star Harry Styles cannot hope to possibly keep up and feels a touch miscast in the role, especially towards the end, with a forced performance and an accent that bounces all over the British isles. Though Chris Pine stands out with a sinister supporting role, so it is unfortunate his mysterious character does not go anywhere impactful at all.

Overall, this is a strange studio movie, that could be stranger, could be better and also could be worse. A curious, controversial and curiously controversial misstep.