There are also times when the conversation around a film before its release is so sharp and funny that it can end up with far more interesting dialogue surrounding another great film. Then there’s “Affair” directed by Olivia Wildedon’t worry darling”, around which rumors of cast firing, on-set romance and on-off-set tension have been swirling for the past several weeks.
However, the bullshit that has taken such a grip on social media users, “Don’t Worry Darling” will be the most exciting thing to come out of. The actual film is hollow and depressing.
And that’s a shame, because on the surface it sounds provocative and looks like something baked inside a “Stepford Wives” Dutch oven. This is a story about inspired housewives in a post-World War II suburb. Like the 1975 chiller, “Don’t Worry Darling”‘s cheery and brilliant Technicolor malice lies beneath the surface.
But how it unfolds falls flat, and the plot that unfolds—via a script penned by Katie Silberman, Kerry Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke—is the mere semblance of sharp writing. Mainly though? It’s just half-baked.
The premise and brilliance certainly are (for a performance I’ll get to in a moment). Like 2019’s “Midsummer,” Florence Pugh is awesome at holding audiences’ hands and inadvertently bringing us into the pit of hell.
The actor anchors “Don’t Worry Darling” as Alice Chambers, the wife of Jack (Harry Styles), with whom she has settled in a nomadic community in 1950s California. When we meet them, they are right in the middle of what we think of as a daily routine.
Jack is running for his non-descript office job, referred to simply as the “Victory Project”, in a suit and carrying a slim black briefcase. Alice practically sits in the car, ready to hand her her coffee mug and apply lipstick to her cheek as soon as he walks in.
Cut to an after-work scene when Alice has finished preparing a juicy steak inside her antique kitchen. As he walks in the door, she has prepared a hard drink for her husband. But before wrapping Alice in his arms, Jack barely takes a sip and makes passionate love to her—on the couch, up the wall, or sometimes even at the same table they eat at.
And it usually forces him to go under her.
This repetitive image is an interesting, potentially deliberate subversion of the typical one-dimensional, June Cleaver-esque concept of asexual and patriarchal housewife devoid of personality. “Don’t Worry Darling” doesn’t take Alice completely out of the reality of white suburban housewives in the ’50s. But it does give him some much-needed enthusiasm.
And for a while, it seems that Wilde and the trio of screenwriters offer a compelling setup. Alice and Jack organize lively parties for the neighborhood. She smokes and drinks, and she and her man have sex as if it is their religion.
Sure, they get questions about when they’re going to have kids (it’s their 50s, after all). But they’re also the envy of all the other enthusiastic housewives on their perfectly tidy block. These include Alice’s martini-toting bestie Bunny (Wild), the iconic Shelley (Gemma Chan), wide-eyed Peg (Kate Berlant), and new-in-town Violet (Sydney Chandler).
But like any immaculate image, when Alice begins to look too deeply into it, less likeable things present themselves. Like, why is it that no one is allowed to step outside the neighborhood? What kind of work does Jack and virtually every other guy do in this deeply gated community Absolutely What to do for a cult-like company run by the mysterious Frank (Chris Pine)?
These are all-important questions that “don’t worry darling” are only kind of answered by the time the credits roll at the end. But there’s a more pressing question that rises and becomes a thorn in the film’s side: what’s up with Margaret (Kiki Layne), Rare. The black wife in the neighborhood, who – legend has it – walked away from the deep end once out of line?
This is where “don’t worry darling” starts to fall in, and that’s when it’s most interesting. That’s because it presents a character with a ton of potential. really Eliminate previous iterations of this premise, and does very little with it.
Margaret probably only has a few lines throughout the film, yet she is vital to the story.
Her unexpected and clearly distraught presence catalyzes Alice’s decision to rock the nefarious boat and find out what’s really going on.
But because the film establishes Alice as the protagonist, we immediately root for her—even though Margaret was dumped by her neighbors to do the same thing.
Unlike Alice, Margaret remains an underwriter, mostly seen in brief, cryptic flashbacks that raise more questions, or through broken doors as her husband (Ariel Stachel) tries to calm her down (which we assuming he’s one of them) “episodes”). either — and it underscores the unspoken message of the film — in one of Alice’s incredible scenes.
Because it becomes painfully clear that despite the film’s ability to add nuance to the white-woman-in-pain narrative, Margaret is only here as a plot device. Just imagine what could have happened if both Alice and Margaret collaborated to overturn the strange system they live in.
Maybe the filmmakers were too busy trying to fabricate The faintest twist in the third act to quibble over her heavy white feminist vibes. Part of the problem is that there are too many jacks involved in this curveball, and Styles isn’t up for that task.
It’s precisely in the first two-thirds of the film when Jack is only serviceable (except for an inconclusive “dance” scene). But when Styles has to help move the story forward, he’s intractable and reluctant. Looks like everyone else in the film has to work extra hard in the scenes with him. This includes people who are only calling in their performances yet still manage to entertain.
There is a popular idea that when you have more than two screenwriters on a project, the final film looks like it has split ends. That’s certainly true for “Don’t Worry Darling,” a catchy film that ultimately hits the ball so hard that the missing comma in its title is more striking than what actually happens in it.
The filmmakers don’t know which direction to go and what they really want to say with “Don’t Worry Darling”. When it breaks the patriarchal lens of the ’50s, it’s engaging and fun. But when it really tries to contend with it, even adding a whole story to boot, it derails. The story is unnecessarily over-complicated.
And some of them are the above questions? Viewers will likely come away scratching their heads yet trying to figure it out—and not even in a good, borderline pretentious way. There’s a lot going on at the end of the film, as if it’s racing towards a big revelation. For a second, you are eagerly waiting for this. But then, it just ends…
And it’s probably the biggest allegory in the whole “don’t worry darling” saga. There was such an intense build-up around it, for weeks, months before its release. But then the movie comes out, and it’s like, well, it happened. On to the next thing.