There’s no doubt in my mind that director and actress Olivia Wilde is a talented filmmaker in front of and behind the screen. She proved with her feature debut, Booksmart, that she’s got the chops to creatively tell visual stories with style, humor, and grace. In her latest, Wilde takes on a stepford wives-like neighborhood, in which the men venture off to work on secret projects and the women stay at home flaunting their domestic bliss. Don’t Worry Darling contains gorgeous visuals and stupendous camera work from Wilde, but the film fails to settle into its themes to engage its viewers fully.
Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star as Alice and Jack Chambers, a young married couple who joins an idyllic and up-and-coming town of Victoria, California. While the men go off to work on dangerous missions, their wives stay home cleaning, relaxing and/or shopping, and preparing dinner for their husbands. When Alice begins to ask too many questions about Victory’s top-secret project based on some encounters she’s had, cracks in her perfect life with Jack begin to commence. Her life of luxury and her perfect paradise aren’t the only things on the verge of disruption. Alice seemingly loses her sanity and grasp on reality the more she asks questions.
It took me a while to figure out what it was that I didn’t like about Don’t Worry Darling, but the simplest explanation I can provide is that it’s an intriguing yet boring feature. Visually, Wilde plays around with beautiful imagery and great color palettes to represent the energy the new town of Victory claims to have. However, there’s a significant discrepancy with that translation to the script and acting. For one, the entire feature spends so much time establishing the foundation of Victory, that it loses all interest in developing its side characters. None of these people feel central to the plot. As a result, it’s hard to care about anyone or anything outside of Alice’s life.
Don’t worry Darling also suffers from the fact that it tries to excuse itself from needing to dive deeper into its themes by selling itself as a dark mystery with something more sinister transpiring. As of result of this, the story takes its time building, slowly revealing clues to Alice’s reality by the film’s end. The problem with this is that there’s no time to digest the secrets of the script and the explanations are just not good enough to feel realistic. Essentially, the script spends too much time building on Alice’s recognition of this false livelihood that it fails to provide clarity or enjoyment of the resolution. And by the time any answers are given, it feels unearned and rushed.
Don’t Worry Darling is boring.
For a film that is so visually vibrant, Don’t Worry Darling is boring. Florence feels like she’s in the film alone, giving a convincing performance that carries the weight of her reality. Harry Styles feels miscast, and oddly enough, it’s not because his acting is bad. However, he doesn’t appear to match Pugh in maturity, emotion, and physical awareness. Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, and Kiki Layne’s talents are all so underutilized, it makes the story completely uninspiring and difficult to care about in any regard. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film left viewers wondering how a film with such a great cast could leave so much to be desired in performances.
Who could blame them, though? The script doesn’t give them much to do besides act as obstacles standing in Alice’s way of discovering the truth. And it relies too heavily on that slow-burn appeal that the intrigue filters out long before the fast-paced third act. If Don’t Worry Darling was supposed to be some sort of “women power” awakening or commentary on our society’s failure to recognize a rise in ‘incel’ behavior, it failed miserably—and did so with as little substance as possible.
Catch the trailer for Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, which is now playing in theaters: