To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Don’t Worry Darling is a psychological thriller directed by Olivia Wilde from a screenplay written by Katie Silberman (Isn’t It Romantic). Featuring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, Asif Ali, Kate Berlant, and Chris Pine the film is Wilde’s second directorial effort after Booksmart (2019). The story follows Alice Chambers, a young devoted 1950s housewife living in Victory, California who begins to believe her husband is keeping secrets and their world is not what it seems.
In the 1950s Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles) live in the perfect corporate town of Victory, California. Alice makes Jack bacon, eggs, and coffee every morning for breakfast before he leaves for work at the Victory Project with the other men in town. She begs him to take the day off, but he says he can’t. He forgets his lunch and Alice runs out to his car giving him one final kiss before he leaves. All the other husbands in town are heading to work as well with Alice’s neighbors Bunny (Olivia Wilde) and Peg (Kate Berlant) waving their spouses Bill (Nick Kroll) and (Asif Ali) Peter off as well. As the men disappear into the desert the women had back inside to clean their homes.
Alice then spends her day cleaning her home, shopping, and attending a ballet class with the other women in town. The class is led by Shelley (Gemma Chan), whose husband Frank (Chris Pine) is Jack’s boss and the founder of the Victory Project. After class Alice heads home to prepare dinner and await the return of her husband from work. When Jack returns home she tells him about her day and the two begin to make out and have sex on the kitchen table without eating dinner. Afterward, they head out to have drinks with their neighbors.
Don’t Worry Darling has been a presence in the news for months now. First Olivia Wilde was served custody papers while on stage promoting the film at CinemaCon. Then there were rumors that Wilde and Florence Pugh clashed on set while filming leading to Pugh deciding to only do limited press for the picture. Lastly, Wilde also reported that she fired Shia LaBeouf from the project saying “his process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions.” Her boyfriend Harry Styles was hired to replace LaBeouf surprisingly. LaBeouf later stated that he was not fired and left the project due to script issues and not having enough rehearsal time. A video was also leaked where Wilde is practically begging LaBeouf to stay on the film. All of that put a big spotlight on whether or not this film would be successful or a hot mess and I didn’t even bother to mention Spit-Gate! (Yes, Harry Styles allegedly spit on Chris Pine.)
This movie has many things going for it. A stellar ensemble cast led by Florence Pugh, a hot up-in-coming director, and a Mystery Box narrative that has been popular since the early 2000s. Olivia Wilde does a fine job directing this movie. It’s a fine follow-up to Booksmart and warrants her getting another shot at a big-budget feature – hopefully, the long-rumored Spider-Woman for Sony! Don’t Worry Darling also looks beautiful with seasoned cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Gothika) crafting some beautiful scenery. The cast turns in decent performances, but they are all there as seasoning for the main dish, Florence Pugh. Pugh boasts her range in this film going from ditzy, to paranoid, to powerful in a matter of hours. She has the most time on screen and it can truly be considered her story.
This movie is also predictable and filled with unanswered plot elements. Within 30 minutes viewers can figure out the mystery and the film becomes more about how Alice will escape Victory. There is a mysterious red plane that Alice and Margaret see flying over the town that is never explained. Neither are the frequent earthquakes the town has every day. Then there’s Frank, founder of the Victory Project, and supposed villain. He is the mastermind behind everything yet his plan is unclear and some of his choices outright dumb. Why give all the women the same backstories? He was setting himself up for failure at some point. Also, Frank only has one scene of consequence with Alice and she’s not even the one to take him out in the end. Clearly, he’s some kind of male chauvinist influencer, but we never get to find out what he’s like outside of Victory. A little more backstory for him and some of the other townspeople would have helped the story feel more real.
Overall, this is a solid second entry from Wilde. While the plot is predictable and the story reminiscent of an episode of Black Mirror, it’s still worth the admission. I give Don’t Worry Darling a Solid 6.9/10. Considering there isn’t much competition for another month the film should do quite well on such a modest budget.