Don’t Worry Darling Review: A disappointing follow-up from Wilde that falls apart in its final stretch
Olivia Wilde caught fire as a director with her 2019 breakout comedy Booksmart but veers out of comedy and more into psychological thrills with her latest film, Don’t Worry Darling, for mixed results.
The film takes viewers into a secluded 1950s inspired utopian community that sees the men go to work each day on a secretive project headed by beloved community leader Frank (Chris Pine) while the women live as basic housewives cleaning the house and cooking the food. One of the couples that live in the community, Jack (Harry Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh), look as if they couldn’t be happier as they’re able to maintain their steamy romance while gaining prominence in the community. However, after seeing fellow housewife Margaret (Kiki Layne) start to talk about things not being right, Alice starts to see that what she’s saying isn’t just hallucinatory ramblings and begins to see that this world is not as it seems.
Don’t Worry Darling is easily able to get its hooks in viewers at the start because of the big compelling elements it presents. It’s 1950s settings just totally pops with color and stunning architecture design. The action of the wives’ daily routine is fascinating to watch and the idea of this 50s community being placed right in the middle of a desolate desert is visually striking through contrast. Not to mention, as Alice begins to dig deeper into the wider mystery at hand, the hallucinatory imagery placed in is incredibly hypnotizing to watch and adds some unsettling tension.
The mystery, itself, is also very compelling and keeps you thinking about what’s really going on. The engaging aspects of the characters and the world get you instantly intrigued by the story, and you can’t help but become more curious about the deeper truth that slowly starts to reveal itself. From trying to understand what Frank’s “Victory Project” really is to Alice trying to figure out why the women are kept out of understanding what the men are actually up to, you feel totally locked into this burning mystery. For the most part, it’s a well-paced mystery that features some tantalizing breadcrumbs that make you really ponder what’s happening in Alice’s world and what the bigger goal for Frank really is.
The performances from Pugh and Pine also work in making Don’t Worry Darling very captivating. While Pugh’s performance here might not measure up to the same heights as some of her career best performances thus far or will likely be that memorable as time goes on, she holds the film up confidently throughout. Her slow-growing panic and paranoia around these visions she’s having and her concerns that she’s being trapped intensifying are made excellently relatable and engaging because of Pugh’s performance. She completely drives the personal emotion of Alice’s perspective and makes Don’t Worry Darling a total thrill ride. Pine is equally captivating in how charming, yet subtly disturbing he makes Frank. Every time he’s on-screen, you’re just hanging off every word that flows from his mouth and the presence that Pine gives him is incredibly haunting at times. There’s a moment where Frank and Alice have a true battle of the minds at a dinner table that’s immensely thrilling to watch and the mental battles between these two are truly a clash of acting titans.
Truthfully, most of the cast is either just fine or unmemorable, but Pugh and Pine do more than enough to keep you hooked on every part of the mystery. Unfortunately, Don’t Worry Darling’s strengths aren’t enough to keep the film from completely losing its steam in its revealing final act. Once the film starts to divulge the truth behind Victory and what Alice has been seeing, it presents a twist that’s interesting, but a little too out there. The themes about control and toxic traditional gender roles do leave a good impact and the big reveal does have some horrifying little details about the situation that leave a mark, but the twist is overly complicated with its sci-fi element and the way the finale is handled is a total mess.
The film answers some questions about the nature of the community, but leaves others surrounding Margaret and how the community is maintained are left too ambiguous or are so unbelievably complex. Some of the answers are really too much of a stretch to be believed and it’s tough to understand what the real goal or gain from the Victory Project really is based on what we learn. To be honest, the film just leaves viewers hanging with its ending and it’s completely unsatisfying. There are random things, including a mind-boggling death, that happen for no reason. The film ends on a sudden cliffhanger in a way that’s deeply frustrating. Also, there are story threads brought up in the finale that are left loose and end on unsatisfying notes. It’s an ending that basically makes the film feel unfinished and truly leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
Although it starts on a strong note and has Pugh and Pine holding your attention with their great performances, Don’t Worry Darling is a disappointing follow-up for Wilde as a director as its intriguing mystery and story completely fall apart in the final act leaving things on a dissatisfying and genuinely underwhelming note.