‘Don’t Worry Darling’ – Review

Olivia Wilde’s new dramatic thriller is a visual wonder to behold, but does not ever fully blossom to the film it wants to be.

*This review contains spoilers!*

Olivia Wilde is a brilliant director, who can craft a world on screen that is beautiful and crisp. Don’t Worry Darling perfectly exemplifies this. The film invites the audience into a world that appears as idyllic as the Victory Project is meant to seem. Bright. Beautiful. Clean. The moments of tension are done well from a visual standpoint. But, even still, it doesn’t ever quite hit the mark the way you want it to. 

Don’t Worry Darling tells the story of Alice and Jack, a seemingly perfect couple who live in a seemingly perfect town in the 1950s. The couple are willing participants of a utopian experiment known as The Victory Project, helmed by its leader, Frank. However, as cracks begin to form in this idyllic world, Alice realizes that hidden underneath her perfect life is a dark and sinister secret. She must then try to break free of The Victory Project, and its participants, before she completely loses her sense of self. 

There are a number of highlights throughout the film. The casting is strong, with Florence Pugh giving a great performance as Alice. While Harry Styles does not ever quite match her in his performance as Jack, his performance is not nearly as bad as the internet may lead you to believe. Chris Pine is also a stand-out as Frank, the charismatic leader of The Victory Project. The stand-off dinner scene between him and Pugh is one of the better scenes of Don’t Worry Darling. The supporting cast is well rounded out, with Gemma Chan, Olivia Wilde, and Nick Kroll all giving strong performances. 

The movie has a number of different factors working in its favor: a strong cast, gorgeous set and costume designs, interesting and surreal dream sequences. So why does it not quite satisfy in the end? 

There are a multitude of scenes that start off gripping, as Alice begins to realize that something is off about the seemingly perfect life she lives. As she begins to put the pieces together, she becomes increasingly more frustrated with the gaslighting she not only experiences from Jack, but from her friends, and especially from Frank. However, there never seems to any particular moment of epiphany. Or at least, not in the way the movie wants us to see. We perpetually watch Alice conclude that the Victory Project is a lie again and again, to no real action. That is, until the climax, when she finally breaks free. 

The overall themes of the movie are poignant, as the controversy around this film alone can speak to its overarching message of how women are still held to unfair standards, but the power of that message is overshadowed by the repetitive nature of the film. We know that the women of The Victory Project are just meant to be vessels for sex for their husbands. We know that men will go to extraordinary lengths to gaslight their partners to keep their own comfort. We know that a man can get by doing more wrong than a woman can for half the scorn. These are all problems the movie presents, and we as an audience want to see Alice break through it all, but the movie does not grant us a great way for her to do so in the end. Instead, we’re given a disorganized third act that does not at all match the tone of the rest of the film (and not in a way that seems intentional), that ends up hurting the stronger two acts. While the themes are important, the screenplay’s inability to contribute anything new to the conversation keeps it from becoming the feminist masterpiece that it so desparately wants to be. 

Don’t Worry Darling is a visually gorgeous film, that even despite its issues, showcases Wilde’s strengths as a director, and Pugh and Pine’s talents as actors. However, much like Alice’s struggles to break free of the brainwashing, the third act prevents the movie from ever breaking through from being a good movie to a great one. 

Grade: C+

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: None
Should Be Considered: Best Costume Design, Best Production Design

Where to Watch: In Theaters

Lex Williams
she/her @alexiswilli_
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
Sign: Capricorn

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