Star Rating:

Don't Worry Darling

Director: Olivia Wilde

Actors: Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Harry Styles

Release Date: Friday 23rd September 2022

Genre(s): Drama, Thriller

Running time: 123 minutes

Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh) and her husband, Jack (Harry Styles) live in the idyllic company town of Victory. Led by the mysterious Frank (Chris Pine), Alice and Jack's life is carefree and happy, but when a violent death occurs nearby, Alice begins to wonder if Victory isn't as perfect as she believes, and if it hides some dark secret underneath and beyond its borders...

Going into 'Don't Worry Darling', you'll find yourself having to work twice as hard to keep all the drama and gossip in its immediate orbit out of your mind. There's the whole spitting/not spitting thing with Chris Pine and Harry Styles. There's the pre-production skirmish between Shia LaBeouf and the rest of the cast. There's Olivia Wilde's increasingly messy divorce from Jason Sudeikis interfering with the press tour, with her literally being served papers in the middle of a presentation about said movie. Yet, by the end of 'Don't Worry Darling', what's clear is that the drama surrounding it is far more interesting than the movie itself. What's more, it's not nearly as predictable as the movie is.

Right away, what jumps out from 'Don't Worry Darling' is how it's been done before, and done better. There are shades of 'The Twilight Zone', and 'The Stepford Wives' intermingled with the likes of 'Mad Men', both in terms of production design and aesthetic, and its views on men and women in societal structures. Yet, even with these shows and movies as inspirations and touchstones, what 'Don't Worry Darling' has to say is pretty insipid and nowhere near as revolutionary or inspired as it thinks it is or has claimed to be by its director, writers, and cast.

Florence Pugh is far and away the best thing about this movie, and it's a testament to her professionalism and her zeal as an actor that she is able to lift it up from being utterly terrible to just pretty bad. At every point in this movie, she is acting everyone off the screen - and that includes Chris Pine, who is arranged against her as this all-seeing, all-knowing guru type running the show. Pine, for his part, does what he can with what he's given but he's completely underserved by it all. Harry Styles, bless him, is put in the unfortunate position of playing Pugh's husband and love interest, yet it's clear from the very outset that he is completely outmatched by her. That might slyly be the point of their pairing; that Pugh is just running rings around him at every stage, but the disparity in talent between them is too great not to notice. Olivia Wilde tries to shoehorn herself into the proceedings as one of the neighbours, but really just ends up offering needless exposition more than anything else.

As to Olivia Wilde the director, 'Don't Worry Darling' does feel like a real misstep after the positively brilliant 'Booksmart'. The weight of expectation on her to do great things probably proved too much, but also the jump from comedy to psychological thriller might have been too big to make. For one, the two genres have no real connective tissue. Moreover, psychological thrillers require an airtight script and story - which this absolutely does not have. It's easy to see why Wilde went for it - glossy setting, intriguing ideas, has a feminist angle - but for all of her talents as a director, not even the very best of them would be able to make something better out of this.

Most people will probably go to see 'Don't Worry Darling' because of its frequent appearance in social media feeds, the gossip surrounding it, and general curiosity to see what all the fuss is about. Yet, even if this buoys the box office a little bit, 'Don't Worry Darling' will sink under the weight of its own blandness in no time. There isn't enough in it, the concept is too unoriginal, and the script is way too thin to give it any kind of staying power. Ultimately, 'Don't Worry Darling' will fade away like its nostalgia-dripped setting until it's all just a dream or a half-forgotten memory. It's pretty, it's got some good performances, but everything else just turns into vapour.