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Review: Don’t Worry Darling

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Don’t Worry Darling, Olivia Wilde’s second film after her incredibly successful directorial debut “Booksmart”, has been out for just a week, and has already sparked huge debate among film fans and critics, after being highly anticipated for a year and a half. 

The highlights of the film immediately jump out – Florence Pugh’s stunning performance, the score, and the beautiful cinematography. However, although the film is an enjoyable watch that draws the viewer in and leaves them intrigued until the end, it comes with a barrage of issues that make one feel like aspects of the film – especially the ending – are not well thought through. 

Florence Pugh plays Alice, wife of Jack (Harry Styles), who are a young couple madly in love in a town with 72 residents which is part of something called the ‘Victory Project’. It is set in the 50s, and life is seemingly perfect, with the men leaving at the same time every day to go to work, while the women stay at home to cook, clean, and shop while charging things to the company account. However things start to go wrong as Alice ventures past the borders and begins to wonder what really goes on at the ‘Victory Project’. 

Pugh’s performance is stellar, and reminiscent of her role in Midsommar, although we feel less attached to her here as one of the issues that the film has is that not enough time is taken to introduce the characters in the first act and allow the audience to get attached to them. It makes the film seem as hollow as the setting – which is perhaps intentional –  and the characters feel half-baked. Further, the last act of the film feels rushed, with many aspects of the end of the film not being clear, making the film feel both too long and too short. 

Both the cinematography and the score make the film entrancing, and worth seeing on the big screen. It has a striking 50’s aesthetic that not only makes the scenes beautiful, and add to the ultimate message of the film, but also add an unnatural streak to the setting which immediately sets up the sinister air of the film. 

Of the supporting actors, although Harry Styles was definitely not the highlight (this award would be given to Chris Pine, who plays Frank, the head of the ‘Victory Project’, whose performance creates an elusive character which adds to the eeriness of the film perfectly), his performance is not terrible, and definitely did not deserve the mocking laughter that erupted at his monologue at my cinema showing in Edinburgh. His performance is somewhat flat, which although sounds like a bad thing, allows Pugh to shine even more brightly as her descent into madness is made even more lonely by Styles’ somewhat lacklustre performance. 

And although criticism may have been made about Wilde’s directorial skills, her role as Bunny – Alice’s best friend – and Gemma Chan’s role as Shelley, Frank’s wife, are also fantastic, making the female cast of the film particularly successful. 

As such, the main issue that the film has doesn’t have to do with the acting, but rather the plot. Advertised as a psychological thriller, it certainly is disquieting. However, the amount of unanswered questions that one has leaving the cinema override the enjoyment and the disconcertion that is gleaned from this. Although the ending is explained (albeit not particularly well), the event that sets off Alice’s madness is seemingly random and comes from nowhere. 

As well as this, the feminist message that the film ultimately has feels somewhat … tired. Although the message is an important one, the attempt to comment on modern misogynistic culture (especially in the context of the world post internet) is ultimately not really achieved. 

It doesn’t help that anyone who has been at all present on social media cannot help but be aware – and therefore thinking about – the plethora of issues on set while watching. The film’s production was the subject of a lot of media attention, as it was reported that there were many problems between Shia Labeouf’s departure and conflicts between Wilde and Pugh, which then led to a huge amount of scrutiny at the 79th Annual Venice Film Festival, where the film first premiered, at which the infamous Harry Styles spitting on Chris Pine incident occurred. Both parties have since denied this happened, but the media seemed far more interested in these dynamics than the film itself. 

Overall, although Don’t Worry Darling is not a masterpiece by any means, and has many plot holes, it is a very watchable and visually distinctive film that will keep you entertained. 

Press Image courtesy of Warner Bros.