Published Oct. 6, 2022
By AINSLEY HENDERSON
Directed by Olivia Wilde and packed with beautiful cinematography and a star-studded cast, including Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine and Nick Kroll, “Don’t Worry Darling” (2022) is a striking, eerie film at first glance, but filled with subtle flaws at the second.
The movie takes place in Victory, a small and seemingly perfect desert town inhabited by those working on a top-secret project, the Victory Project, and their Stepford-esque wives: all beautiful, perfectly coiffed and incredibly similar. Their only jobs? To cook, clean and support their husbands through everything.
Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles), a married couple living in Victory, seem wonderful. While Jack works, Alice spends her days living the life of a housewife, and when they’re together, they are the perfect image of a happy, healthy couple, yet as the movie progresses, their relationship, along with Alice’s perception of Victory, begins to fracture.
During the first half of the movie, while Pugh and Styles are portraying a tight-knit couple, their on-screen chemistry is good but nothing special, and they have an easy, comfortable dynamic helped on by the script, not necessarily Styles’ acting.
As a big name in the music industry, Harry Styles’ performance in “Don’t Worry Darling” was highly anticipated, but ultimately not spectacular. While his acting skills, especially during the movie’s second half, aren’t anything to discredit, it is hard to separate the on-screen character Jack from the actor that plays him.
“Don’t Worry Darling” is not Styles’ first shot at an acting career, but even after roles in “Dunkirk” (2017) and “Eternals” (2021), he still isn’t up to the challenge of playing a nuanced and troubled character like Jack. He may be able to handle acting overall, but some of his scenes don’t deliver the deep emotions and conviction they should.
On the other hand, Pugh’s emotions and dedication to the role are palpable, and viewers see her classic frown several times as Alice’s perfect world begins to shatter. Having multiple solo scenes, the “Midsommar” actress lives up to all of the expectations she is placed under, portraying a self-assured, strong woman in a world out to make her doubt herself.
While the film may falter in some places, the costumes and set are beautiful and encapsulate an upper-class ‘50s lifestyle, one filled with potlucks, parties and delightful romps, including a drunken Jack teaching Alice to drive his sports car in the middle of the desert. The long dresses and sharp makeup coupled with the yellow-and-blue-toned background certainly make “Don’t Worry Darling” visually appealing.
The cinematography also helps to show Alice’s inner turmoil, mainly while she is in the ballet studio. The symmetry of the dancers, which repeats throughout the movie, gives viewers something to latch onto and follow. When combined with the ominous half-buzzing, half-singing music, it’s beautifully nerve-wracking.
Even though it is packed with dazzling shots, the movie occasionally feels like it is looping over and over and over again. The beginning is paced nicely, setting up the characters and their lives, but the middle, when Alice begins to investigate Victory’s dark secret, feels repetitive.
The supporting cast is star-studded, and Pine, playing the charismatic Frank, the head of the Victory Project, and Gemma Chan, his powerful, educated wife, add to the movie’s thrills. It’s unconventional for a director to act in their own movie, but Olivia Wilde is a perfect fit to play the pristine Bunny.
No spoilers, of course, but the plot twist and aftermath evoke shocked mutterings and even a few gasps. It is the perfect climax, followed by the perfect end, leaving a few things up to the viewer’s interpretation.
Despite rumored drama between Pugh, Styles and Wilde while filming, the movie does an excellent job of avoiding any and all tension that may have arisen.