Don’t Worry Darling
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Florence Pugh’s masterful lead performance saves Don’t Worry Darling

Actress Oliva Wilde’s second directorial effort, Don’t Worry Darling, explores a different genre from Warner Bros. Pictures. Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) are lucky to live in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men working for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950s societal optimism espoused by their CEO, Frank (Chris Pine), equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach–anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia. While the husbands spend every day inside the Victory Project Headquarters, working on the “development of progressive materials,” their wives, including Frank’s elegant partner, Shelley (Gemma Chan), and Alice’s best friend Bunny (Oliva Wilde), enjoy the beauty, luxury, and debauchery of their community.

Life is perfect, with every resident’s needs met by the company. All they ask in return is discretion and unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause. But when cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning precisely what they’re doing in Victory and why. How much is Alice willing to lose to expose what’s happening in this paradise?

In recent weeks more has come about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans during the making of Don’t Worry Darling as opposed to the actual film. On the one hand, given the gossipy age we live in, I can understand why moviegoers choose to discuss that more rather than sharing theories about the film’s actual plot.

The film starts decently enough, introducing us to our core characters. Everything appears peachy keen in the community until Margaret (KiKi Layne) has a near-fatal violent unraveling at a cookout, hinting that things may not be what they seem. Wilde reunites with her Booksmart scribe Katie Silberman (from a story credited to Silberman, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke) to see the film and slowly reveal the layers.

That’s all I will reveal about the plot of Don’t Worry Darling and advise viewers to go in blind. While I pinpointed the twist pretty early in the film, there was a secondary twist that I didn’t see coming. While the twists aren’t groundbreaking, I will give the writing team how to choose to execute them.

Under the direction of Wilde, Pugh leads the cast effectively. Even during the moments where Pugh falls into housewife duties, she does it with a natural charm and flair. I’m not in the demographic that Harry Styles caters to, but the pop singer impressed me with his acting. So much so that I look forward to his Starfox (Eros of Titan) in Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I also liked the costumes and the film’s score, which painted a great picture of 1950s America. Regretfully everything else in the movie is a mixed bad. The supporting cast, particularly Chris Pine, Oliva Wilde, and Nick Kroll, don’t bring anything new to the characters. We’ve already seen everything their characters do in the film in their previous work, and the dialogue delivery comes off as forced.

I did expect the film to go one way during the third act after the twist comes out, but it doesn’t, which wasn’t a good thing as a few plot points are left hanging loose. Wilde’s editing team could’ve cut about 25 minutes from the film to tighten the pacing.

Nevertheless, while Wilde narrowly avoids the sophomore slump with Don’t Worry Darling, I don’t see the film connecting with a mainstream audience. However, I recommend seeing the film for the performance of Florence Pugh.

Final Grade: C+

Don’t Worry Darling is in theaters on Sep 23, 2022

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