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don't worry darling


starring: florence pugh, harry styles, olivia wilde, and chris pine

REVIEWER: lyall carter

A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets.

Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles) are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950’s societal optimism espoused by their CEO, Frank (Pine)—equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach—anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia.


But when cracks in their idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why. Just how much is Alice willing to lose to expose what’s really going on in this paradise?


Over the last month or so it’s been impossible to ignore the press surrounding Don’t Worry Darling. And for once I’m not referring to all the drama surrounding the making and premieres of the film. I’m talking about Olivia Wilde’s vision as articulated in several interviews in that the film is a feminist film, female sexual pleasure, set in contrast to the controlling Frank, the CEO of Victory, who is based on Jordan Peterson. Don’t Worry Darling couldn’t be farther from Wilde’s vision and fails woefully to live up even to the promise of the first half of the film. 


Don’t Worry Darling begins magnificently. It, along with its stars, sparkles and shimmers in the glow of Matthew Libatique’s gorgeous cinematography, Katie Byron’s divinely detailed production design, and Arianne Phillips lavish costume design. It’s a pretty picture but nothing more than that. 


Don’t Worry Darling seems confused not only in its narrative direction but also in its themes. Without giving much away, there are choices that characters make, especially one that leads to the unraveling of Alice’s idyllic world, that make no sense whatsoever. The film seems to be confused in its central narrative, the thrust of what that really is. This leads to narrative jumps and threads that just aren’t tied up. Even the ‘mystery’ at the heart of it all is obvious and trite. 


Don’t Worry Darling is thematically one dimensional as well, barely scraping the surface or saying anything daring or deep on feminism, female sexual pleasure, or the patriarchy. It just all feels rather muddled. 


But for Florence Pugh. The actor of her generation, Pugh more than delivers here. She absolutely shines in a role that is underwritten and a film that doesn’t know what it truly is. Pugh is a force to be reckoned with, capturing both innocence, wide eyed horror, and pleasure all in one gaze. 


While Florence Pugh is simply divine here, it’s not enough to save Don’t Worry Darling as it suffers from a lack of clear narrative and thematic direction, leaving a muddled, but gorgeous to look at, mess.


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