Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures via Vogue

Review: Don’t Worry Darling

By Sam Mutch

Style over substance: naïve ambition blinds Wilde’s sophomore effort.

It’s always an interesting, albeit rare occurrence, when a film’s controversies completely overshadow any discussions about the film itself. The negative press prior to the release of Don’t Worry Darling was so widespread that it reached the realm of mythology (no, Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine at the Venice Film Festival). There’s been an air of negativity surrounding the film and a success was needed to shake that reputation. Instead,  we got an entertaining but messy watch that struggled to keep up with its own story. 

Following on from her successful directorial debut Booksmart, Olivia Wilde’s second film is a Truman Show-esque thriller. Don’t Worry Darling takes place in Victory, an overly perfect looking town that is best described as a 1950s conservative man’s suburban wet dream. The men of the town work for the mysterious Victory Project, while their spouses all live the life of a traditional housewife. One such couple are Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles), who live a happy life until Alice starts to realise that perhaps everything is not as it seems.

It goes without saying that Florence Pugh gives a fantastic performance. She elevates every film she is in, and Don’t Worry Darling is a shining example of that. She has a relentlessly watchable screen presence, whose convincing performance really carries the film at times. Chris Pine also deserves a mention for his sinister turn as Frank, the leader of the Victory Project. Styles’ inexperience as an actor, on the other hand, is glaringly obvious. His more subdued scenes feel rather wooden, and his more emotionally diverse moments felt they would be better suited for a high school drama performance.

From a stylistic perspective, Don’t Worry Darling has it spot on. Through its visuals, Victory really does feel like a 50’s technicolour dreamland, and when the film veers into the realm of horror, the cinematography is especially striking. Overall, the film is stunning to look at, but it’s cheapened by the favouring of style over substance. As the film progresses it becomes clear that a lot of these striking visuals aren’t there for any real purpose other than that they look good.

The film’s first two acts make for an exciting and enjoyable watch. Reminiscent of Alice’s experience, the film drifts through a series of dreamlike vignettes showcasing the seemingly idyllic life in the town. These scenes progressively morph from dreams to nightmares, with the looming enigma of Frank and the Victory Project seeming to provide the answers. Unfortunately, things start to fall apart when the twist comes. A good twist should resolve previous mysteries in a satisfying and shocking way, but in this case,  you’re left with more questions than answers. This circles back to the idea of style over substance: ideas are introduced to add intrigue and tension in the first two acts, which the film then fails to explain in its underwhelming third act. The finale feels rushed and frantic, concluding with an abrupt and unsatisfying ending. This lack of proper execution means the film fails to make any of the deeper allegorical elements stick, resulting in some ham-fisted scenes and dialogue being crammed in towards the end of the film in an attempt to force these unearned points across. It’s  a shame for a film with as much potential as this one to leave a bad taste in your mouth by the end, but so many loose ends are left untouched that the overriding emotion coming out of it is disappointment.

Naïve ambition is Wilde’s sophomore effort’s downfall. Don’t Worry Darling is a film that seems to confuse itself in the search of a high concept story, biting off far more than it can chew. Nonetheless, the film manages to be an entertaining watch for the most part, despite its shortcomings.

2.5/5 stars.


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