TL;DR – While it nails the style, and the cast is giving their all, there is a lack of substance.
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Warning – Some scenes may cause distress.
Don’t Worry Darling Review –
I am not sure any film has quite had as rough a publicity tour as Don’t Worry Darling for quite a while. It felt that every week there was some new drama going on behind the scenes, real or imagined. While this could have derailed the film for me, I quite liked the first trailer, I enjoyed Olivia Wilde’s first directorial work with Booksmart, and look Florence Pugh, and Chris Pine always give great performances. Which meant I was intrigued to see just how this would all play out.
So to set the scene, we open in The Victory Project, a company town in the middle of the desert where all the women stay home manning the house while their husbands go to a mysterious headquarters working on secret new materials. In a perfect house filled with every modern convenience, Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh) gets breakfast ready for her husband Jack (Harry Styles) and watches with the neighbourhood as all the men leave for work simultaneously. She spends her days cleaning the house, making dinner, rehearsing ballet, and drinking with her best friend and neighbour Bunny (Olivia Wilde). The couple enjoys being young and fun, days drinking with friends, and nights partying with the neighbours. Things are going well for both of them. But as they chat at a party held by the boss Jack Chambers (Chris Pine) and his wife Shelly (Gemma Chan), their former friend Margaret (KiKi Layne) questions everything, and soon it has Alice wondering too.
From here, we will look at what did and did not work with the film, but to look at the latter, we will have to delve into some spoilers, which will be labelled. The mood or vibe is the first thing that works with Don’t Worry Darling. This is clearly a 1950s government/corporate town where the town is a front for hidden research. Think the Manhattan Project or Syfy’s Eureka. Just from the setting alone, you have a mysterious vibe reinforced by the periodical ground shakes. It also helps the cast slip into their roles, which they all do with abandon. Florence has to do most of the heavy narrative lifting and nails it. All the neighbours create the perfect balance of freedom and control. Also, Chris and Gemma are so effortlessly charming, even when you know something is not quite right.
Then there is all the 1950s paraphernalia that seeps into every pore of the film, from the costumes, the cars, and the gender relations. The amount of work that has gone into the world building is a credit to the set designers and consumers, and location scouts that made every frame dripping with style and substance. The tone is also reinforced with filmmaking choices, like the use of mirrors [best since Last Night in Soho]. All of this is needed for this film because it lays the groundwork for the narrative, which is a world full of juxtapositions. A lush town in the middle of a desert. A world of freedom, yet etched with spoken and unspoken rules. A world of effortless comfort that drives people to madness.
But that means we need to talk about the narrative, but there is no way to properly do that without hitting spoilers, so [SPOILERS] ahead. You know something is up from the start of the film. The question Alice is trying to find is what that could be. While most of you probably won’t get the specific answer, I think you will probably get the rough outline of where the film is heading quite early. This removes much of the suspense because you end up just waiting for the penny to drop rather than engaging with the film. Then the twist is revealed, and oomph. At the heart of the film, there is an exploration of how incels could use technology to control women. This is a critical issue to explore. However, there was a lack of substance in the screenplay to give that issue the needed coverage and justify everything else in the film.
In the end, do we recommend Don’t Worry Darling? That is a tricky question to answer. Overall there are strong performances. All the production is top-notch. However, the narrative is just lacking in places it desperately needs to improve. If you liked Don’t Worry Darling, we would recommend to you The Invisible Man.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Don’t Worry Darling
Directed by – Olivia Wilde
Story by – Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke & Katie Silberman
Screenplay by – Katie Silberman
Music by – John Powell
Cinematography by – Matthew Libatique
Edited by – Affonso Gonçalves
Production/Distribution Companies – New Line Cinema, Vertigo Entertainment, Universal Pictures & Warner Bros. Pictures.
Starring – Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Gemma Chan, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Nick Kroll, KiKi Layne, Sydney Chandler, Kate Berlant, Asif Ali, Douglas Smith, Timothy Simons, Ari’el Stachel & Dita Von Teese
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: 12; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R