Despite living in a glamorous and seemingly utopian 1950s community in “Don’t Worry Darling,” housewife Alice begins to notice bits and pieces of her world falling apart and breaking. When the foundation of her life is upended, she has no choice but to question her existence in all its entirety.
It’s impossible to escape the drama-filled press tour “Don’t Worry Darling” has been on for the better part of six months now. From an on-set relationship between director Olivia Wilde and lead actor Harry Styles to a rumored feud between Wilde and lead actress Florence Pugh and a “spit-gate” gaff between Styles and Chris Pine, nothing about the release of “Don’t Worry Darling” has been subtle.
It obviously isn’t new for rifts and grievances between superstar celebrities to cloud larger nights in Hollywood – just this year’s Oscars slap is an indication that drama can have a direct correlation with eyeballs on screens, but spats like these can lead to higher expectations and higher degrees of difficulty when it comes to pulling off a production, especially when it’s a genre-bending, social critique of gender roles and communal livelihood. And unfortunately for the cast and crew of “Don’t Worry Darling,” the film does not even come close to reaching these expectations.
While it’s easy to point fingers and blame the film’s issues on just a few individuals, “Don’t Worry Darling” at its core is flawed. Its tense and misguided ideas about gender politics fight with themselves until the bitter end. Are men supposed to hate women with successful and sophisticated jobs? Are women supposed to feel comfortable and conform to a life staying at home? These questions, and many more, are thrown around between characters for the film’s entire runtime, and while it tries to mop up these muddied questions in its final, underwhelming act, it begins to feel too little, too late given that the story’s pacing is utterly lifeless.
Tonally and narratively, “Don’t Worry Darling” feels off at the very jump. It’s colorful and genuinely beautifully production design and camera flourishes are nice, but they can’t cover up a story that doesn’t have any meat on the bone. Many of the portrayals in this film are incredibly one-note, but perhaps even worse is that these one-noters (Chris Pine being an example) are also the only performances that fit. Pine knows exactly what movie he is in and delivers the underbaked role that perfectly accompanies this underbaked movie.
Many are citing Florence Pugh as a particular highlight of this coma-inducing slog, and while she does give an affecting performance that works in a large part, it’s hard not to feel like she’s been this character in much, much better films (ahem, “Midsommar” anyone?). It also doesn’t help that she is paired with an actor who is completely in over his skis in this ensemble cast.
I’ve never really cared for or been moved by Harry Styles as an actor, but I understood the appeal. The One Direction band member has now been in a handful of blockbuster auteur pieces, and it’s hard to make the case that he’s been successful in any of them besides the one he isn’t relied upon to speak much in (“Dunkirk” is truly remarkable, but I can’t say he plays much of a part in that praise).
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Verdict
On paper, “Don’t Worry Darling” is a film that I, and many people in the community of “less superheroes and more original stories” should like. It has a cast of stars being stars, a premise with enough twists and imagination to fill its runtime, and a budget worthy of lavish set design and creative, idiosyncratic moments. But it lacks in nearly all of this. While it’s beautiful to look at, it also comes off as preachy and all-knowing – two things that are incredibly obnoxious and dumbfounding. NOT GOOD!