20 June 2024
Harry Styles, Florence Pugh in DOn't Worry Darling

Film Review – Don’t Worry Darling (2022)

When your debut feature is a huge hit, following it can be an uphill task – as Olivia Wilde knows only too well. After the success of Booksmart, her sophomore feature Don’t Worry Darling has received more attention than she would have liked. If you follow social media even to the slightest degree, you’ll know the gossip surrounding the film has been the subject of countless tweets, memes and speculation. And more. At long last, the film emerges from underneath that welter of tittle tattle and, while it shows off some of her directorial skills, it has an equal amount of glaring issues. This is no Booksmart, for sure.

Victory is a gleaming new town in the middle of the American desert, where all the men work for the local company that founded the town. They’re all involved in top secret research, but more than that they’re not allowed to say. One of the most recent arrivals are Jack (Harry Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh), who have quickly made friends with the other couples in their cul-de-sac and are enjoying all the amenities the town has to offer. While the men are at work, their wives spend their mornings keeping their homes immaculate, while afternoons are spent shopping, swimming, going to fashion shows and generally enjoying everything life in Victory has to offer. But when her friend Margaret (KiKi Layne) starts to behave strangely, Alice suspects there is something more sinister going on beneath the town’s idyllic surface and her attempts to dig deeper bring her into conflict with the head of the company and community leader, Frank (Chris Pine).

It’s not a film without strengths, some of them considerable. Visually, it’s tremendous, a testament to Wilde’s visual skills. From the morning rhythm of coffee and toast to the searing heat of the desert and the lavish but deeply uncomfortable party to celebrate Jack’s promotion, the images are strong and arresting. The sense of period, especially the women’s make up and dresses, is equally spot on and some of the performances are top notch. Pugh, especially, cements her reputation for powerful, no-holds-barred performances and, with her customary honesty, carries the film on her shoulders, driving forward both her own scenes and the film as a whole.

Slightly less in the spotlight, but delivering a better performance than we’ve seen from him for some time, is Pine as the head of the company, who also doubles as a community leader, but with the style of an evangelical preacher. His daily radio broadcast to the town is compulsory listening. Less successful, however, is Styles. While his youthful appearance captures the innocence of his character, his acting is wide of the mark, making you wonder why somebody like Pugh’s Alice would be so passionate about their relationship. He’s taken on too much for this third major film role and is constantly in his co-star’s shadow.

Numerous references to other films litter the second half of the movie, especially The Stepford Wives, 1984 and even Suspiria and Thelma And Louise, but with its 1950s paranoia, it’s most reminiscent of The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. All of which is fun for film nerds, but they’re all dead ends, making us long for a storyline with some originality, instead of one that relies on familiarity. It makes the movie a hard sell to younger audiences, despite the obvious appeal of Mr Styles. The end result is a film that finds itself as confused as we are, culminating in a rambling and incoherent ending. But should we worry? In truth, not overmuch. Because we know that Pugh is destined for greatness and that Wilde is a much better filmmaker than this film indicates.

★★ 1/2


Drama | Cert: 15 | Warner Brothers | In UK cinemas from 23 September 2022 | Dir. Olivia Wilde | Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, KiKi Layne, Gemma Chan.


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