Movie Review: DON’T WORRY DARLING Starring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine
A film that brings up some interesting ideas, Don’t Worry Darling also feels very familiar. By the time we finally figure out what is going on, the movie is practically over – with no time to explore what sets it apart from similar stories. It’s hard not to be left wanting more by the time the credits roll.
Directed by Olivia Wilde in her second outing behond the camera, the film follows Alice (Florence Pugh) – a 1950s housewife living in an experimental community called “Victory” with her husband, Jack (Harry Styles). Things start to unravel when Alice realizes life isn’t as perfect as it seems, and she questions the intentions of the town’s leader, Frank – played by the charismatic Chris Pine. It’s clear from the start that something odd is going on here, but hard to guess exactly what that is. And the reveal never lives up to the curiosity after being strung along by the film’s puzzle box.
Pugh is fantastic as always here, keeping the audience captivated and invested in her character from start to finish. She elevates the film, and saves what could otherwise be a disaster.
There’s a clear “Stepford Wives” vibe at play, which is clear from even early promotional material. As the men go to work, the wives stay home to tend to household chores and make sure dinner is on the table when they get home. The neighbors include Bunny (Olivia Wilde), Margaret (KiKi Layne), Peg (Kate Berlant), newcomer Violet (Sydney Chandler), and Frank’s wife Shelley (Gemma Chan).
Harry Styles is fine here, although I can’t help but think he was miscast. Either way, he does a serviceable job in the role. Other than Nick Kroll adding some laughs as Dean (Bunny’s husband), we don’t see much from the other men – aside from Frank. Chris Pine is another bright spot in the film, who keeps you guessing until the end. His scenes opposite Pugh can be chilling at times.
There is much to appreciate here, in addition to Pugh’s lively performance – without which the film would be lost. The ’50s production design is fantastic, from the beautiful homes and cars to the period-accurate costumes. And the cinematography from Matty Libatíque is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, in addition to being chilling and cold when necessary. But the visuals aren’t enough to save the film from feeling hollow at times.
When a mystery is built around a twist, and the twist doesn’t land – it’s hard to pick up the pieces. I was invested in Alice’s story, largely thanks to Pugh, but the ending leaves much to be desired. And it isn’t in a thought-provoking, decide for yourself what happens way. But rather, it feels like the filmmakers didn’t know either and decided to cut to black. There is so much to explore, from huge dangling plot-threads to interesting characters who go virtually unexplored.
There was so much potential for greatness, from the talented cast to Wilde coming off an incredible directorial debut with Booksmart. But the ending feels too rushed to fully explore the topic at hand, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to spend time with more of the characters. Not a complete waste of time, but you’ll most likely leave the theater feeling like you’ve seen this all before – and handled better.