Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Ah, the 50s. A time that many of our grandparents might have declared to be the “best decade.” And how could they not? Twitter didn’t exist, the Golden Age of Television was in full swing with shows like “I Love Lucy” and “Dragnet:” Elvis was all the rage, and the economy was booming. And, of course, who can forget: the racial segregation, McCarthyism, and stringent beauty standards and societal roles imposed onto women, who were expected to be content as housewives that would birth children and cook dinner for their loving husband. Wait… what were those last few things, again?
This nostalgia and false romanticization of 1950s America is exactly what Don’t Worry Darling looks to critique and commentate on. The film, directed by Olivia Wilde and written by Katie Silberman, unfortunately falls short on crafting enticing characters or a thought-provoking narrative.
Let’s start with the good. The movie looks beautiful. Particularly with the cinematography, the costuming, the set design, and the general aesthetics. It’s very vibrant and perfectly encapsulates the utopic feeling that Victory is looking to capture. I really like the music (both the soundtrack and the song choices) and the sequences of psychological, disturbing imagery was really cool and disturbing.
Florence Pugh (as usual) was absolutely fantastic in this movie. I thought that Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan and KiKi Lane were some other standouts in terms of performances, though I feel that the latter two’s characters definitely should have had more screen time than they were given. I will also say that I wasn’t ever really bored during this movie. It was always entertaining — sometimes not intentionally so — but entertaining nonetheless.
Now for the bad. Okay, let’s get this over with: I did not think Harry Styles was as bad as everyone said he was. In fact, in the scenes where he was being more sincere and loving, I was actually quite captivated by his performance. Unfortunately, I think it is the scenes where he is supposed to be more emotional and morally conflicted that made me think this just wasn’t the right part for him. All you could really see was Harry Styles, he never really blended into the character the same way Lady Gaga did in A Star is Born. To his defense, however, he wasn’t really given much to work with. His characterization was very confusing and I wasn’t sure if the movie wanted me to sympathize with him, dislike him, or something in-between.
I would say that the film’s biggest weakness is the ultimate reveal of what is going on. I will try to avoid spoilers but it was really underwhelming and did the main character, Pugh’s Alice, a huge disservice. It took away a lot of her agency as a protagonist and boiled down a really complex theme and central conflict into what is efficiently a giant chase sequence in an extremely rushed final act. Giving the main character so little agency until the final act, when you realize she really didn’t play much of a role in the central conflict, takes away from Pugh’s utterly fantastic performance. I personally felt it would have been much more impactful had Alice been involved in some way in being in the situation she was, rather than being a victim of circumstances.
It wasn’t just Alice, but the conclusion to other character’s felt extremely haphazard as well. Frank’s (Chris Pine) story was extremely disappointing as it felt incredibly unsatisfying and inconsistent for the character they were setting him up to be. And even by the end, you realize this mysterious, intelligent mastermind they were setting up never actually amounted to anything. The conflict between Alice and Frank is seemingly nonexistent, as it just comes out of nowhere and doesn’t lead to a powerful, final confrontation. There’s a lot of weird psychological imagery, but a lot of it really doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than to confuse or weird out the audience. This would be fine if it served a purpose, but by the end most of it really doesn’t and is, again, another external factor that Alice is more a passive victim of.
The characters, which could have made up for the more incoherent story, ultimately fall just as flat.
Don’t Worry Darling is ultimately one of those movies that feels like a lot was cut out. A lot of extra character stuff, a lot of stuff from the original concept/story, and a lot of scenes that help build the tension and the world out. While it looks great, features some fantastic performances, and at two hours long doesn’t really drag, by the end you are left with a relatively forgettable experience. Ultimately, it doesn’t say anything new or interesting, nor does it make up for that with an interesting story and compelling characters.
While it might have been a ball to watch, and entertaining enough to make you flip your lid, in the end, the story, themes and characters got the royal shaft, and ain’t that a bite.
Jordan Orlando is a Sophomore Writing for Film, TV and Emerging Media major who, despite the title, still worries darling..They can be reached at email@example.com.