Banner from the official movie website for ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ (Photo Courtesy of Don’t Worry Darling’s official website)
By Josie Eubank, staff writer
Don’t Worry Darling is a thrilling and entertaining piece directed by Olivia Wilde that illustrates a broken relationship amidst what is believed to be a utopian world. The frequent use of bright, eye-catching colors in the film establishes a conflict between this “picture-perfect” reality and the mysteriously sinister truth lurking beneath the surface.
The movie centers around the lives of Alice, played by Florence Pugh, and her husband, Jack Chambers, played by Harry Styles, an idealized couple in their 1950s paradise. Jack works for the “Victory Project” alongside the rest of the men in town, and the women stay at home and take on docile and domestic roles in their society. Though the details of this project remain a secret for a majority of the movie, it is known that the project is headed by its charismatic leader named Frank, played by Chris Pine, who continues to cultivate conformity as he promotes the idea that chaos is the “enemy of progress.” As people, including Alice’s own best friend Bunny, played by Olivia Wilde, turn a blind eye to the strange events unfolding before them, Alice is left to question and discover the hidden truth of their quintessential world on her own.
Despite the recent controversy surrounding popstar Harry Styles’s ability to act in the film, I don’t believe his performance deserved all the backlash it received. However, his overall performance was far from perfect. The quality of his accent was a hotly debated topic after a scene from the film surfaced many social media platforms. Yet after watching myself, I believe his blend of the American and British accent was simply fitting for the background of his character. Additionally, when put alongside Florence Pugh, his character appears one-dimensional, and he failed to captivate the audience as well as his co-star.
Florence Pugh blew the other performances out of the water. She continued to amaze me with her undeniable skill as the story progressed, proving herself deserving of her lead role as Alice. The movie itself is grounded in her performance. A personal favorite scene of mine features a stand-off at the dinner table between Pugh and Pine, in which she continues to unpack the truth about their community with unwavering confidence regardless of how unsettling it is. Pine doesn’t intimidate her, and she provides an enthralling and incredibly convincing performance. She explored the complexities of her character in a thoughtful and engaging way, portraying the internal conflict between the dutiful housewife and the woman who questions this stereotypical role which she has been assigned.
On the contrary, Olivia Wilde’s excessive screen time seemed to be a blatant abuse of her power as director, as most of her scenes seemed unnecessary for furthering the plot in any way. It would have been nice to see a more balanced use of this talented cast, especially when it came down to developing the roles of Shelley (Gemma Chan) and Chris Pine’s Frank, which were vital to the storyline.
The cinematography was outstanding, drawing the audience in with its captivating visuals. Matthew Libatique, the cinematographer, effectively mirrored the film’s recurring themes by juxtaposing some of the bright colors with more dark and ominous shots. There were scenes building up Pugh’s hallucinations that would flash repeatedly throughout the film, quickly contrasting the radiant scenery that typically surrounds her.
Moreover, his framing frequently captured the visual motif of the circle that parallels the endless cycle of monotony for the women in this world. This can be seen through the round cul-de-sac, the records, the wheels of their cars, the overhead shots of their coffee cups, and the dancers—all beautifully carried through with his excellent camerawork.
Additionally, the film’s original score and song list were both excellent. An evident contrast was also created with the music, as the upbeat and cheery songs from the fifties that fit the given time period were later replaced with the thrilling score that successfully enhanced suspenseful scenes. I would say it was an effective way to build suspense, considering the fact that the music haunted me days after watching the film in theaters.
In matters of execution of the theme, Don’t Worry Darling could be much better. Wilde’s directing shines a light on multiple themes, and though I appreciated her touching on the topics of misogyny, forced conformity, rigid gender roles, and much more, it was difficult to dive into these various concepts in any depth. Rather than a cohesive message, the audience was left with loose ends and a basic and unsatisfactory understanding of these complex issues.
Despite the execution, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with the overall movie. This entertaining psychological thriller had me on the edge of my seat for certain scenes, and gripping the arm of my friend for others. I believe this compelling film is worth seeing on the big screen, and I recommend it to anyone willing to feel a little uneasy afterwards.