Don't Worry Darling Review: Florence Pugh is bewitching in Olivia Wilde's underwhelming experiment
Read Pinkvilla's review of the Florence Pugh and Harry Styles starrer Don't Worry Darling below.
Name: Don't Worry Darling
Director: Olivia Wilde
Cast: Harry Styles ,Florence Pugh
Rating: 3.5 / 5
While the talented team behind Don't Worry Darling may have not received their witty title's "memo" - if the behind-the-scenes "reported" drama is any inclination - all eyes were wide open for the scintillating Olivia Wilde-led film. After a super-successful attempt with her directorial feature, the gobsmackingly endearing Booksmart, Olivia Wilde takes things up a notch higher with this psychological thriller starring a dream cast, headlined by the sensational Florence Pugh and the pop icon-cum-budding actor Harry Styles. Does Don't Worry Darling live up to the expectations teased? Let's find out!
Long story short, in Don't Worry Darling, we're introduced to the Mad Men-esque, utopian world named Victory, with its sunkissed, palm desert stylised landscape. Our main protagonist is Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh), the charismatic housewife of Jack Chambers (Harry Styles). In a quintessential 1950s America set-up, Jack is the provider of the house as he works for the mysterious Victory Project, so ambiguous that even Alice isn't in the know regarding what it is that her husband really does. She's definitely not allowed to ask questions or venture to the James Bond-themed Victory headquarters.
On the other hand, Alice is the stereotypical wife, who takes care of the squeakily pristine household and supports her husband immaculately, whilst maintaining the same routine like clockwork: Bid goodbye to Jack as he heads to work, frolicking around with her friends at the pool or even shopping and orchestrated ballet, clean and cook before her darling husband comes home and then welcome him with lust-driven intentions. This, in turn, is followed by all wives in the township where chaos is a mighty sin. Victory is being headed by Jack's boss, the calculative Frank (Chris Pine), with his charismatic cult leader-esque calmness that almost convinces you to join him in his world.
However, Alice's perfect world begins to crack when she encounters something dastardly happening to her close friend Margaret (KiKi Layne), who begins acting out of the scripted ordinary. Eventually, Alice - in detective mode - begins uncovering uncomfortable aspects of her "Wonderland," which is the opposite of what Jack wants. When the imperfections start to let loose, and Jack's true intentions come to light, so does the rebellious Alice.
Don't Worry Darling is quite an ambitious attempt by Olivia Wilde to excel, as its core narrative is sexism of the highest order, irrespective of what decade it's in. While Wilde does a fine job in directing, it's the weak screenplay by Katie Silberman that proves to be the party pooper. The first half of Don't Worry Darling is swanky, lavish, but lacklustre as the only character arc running wild is that of Alice. Besides the vindictive Frank, the other characters aren't bestowed with the same privilege of storytelling, and this, unfortunately, includes, Harry Styles' Jack, relegated to the wrong end of the stick. The second half is miles better, but the climax, though pulsating, doesn't satiate you enough to really care at the end. In building up the feminist-vs-patriarchal allegory, Don't Worry Darling doesn't weave itself seriously and rather stumbles through its "The Truman Show meets Squid Game" twists and turns, which are quite a few.
That's not to say Don't Worry Darling was a complete letdown, because it's backed by a bewitching Florence Pugh, who steals the show with her delectable performance. Equally electric is Chris Pine, who reminds us yet again what a fine actor he is beneath those gorgeous blue eyes. It's particularly the scenes between this crackling duo which eat the cake. As for Harry Styles, though Jack isn't written as well as it was teased in the beginning, the One Direction member manages to bring an old-school lead actor charm in his earnest performance. Another highlight is Olivia Wilde as Bunny, Alice's best friend, but - just like Gemma Chan's Shelley, Frank's wife - isn't given sufficient time to really strike a chord. Speaking of Chan, this reviewer would have been intrigued more to see her character development more prominently, as she plays an essential card in a significant closing sequence.
Another win for Don't Worry Darling? John Powell's outstanding score grips you by adding an overdramatic undertone, especially in the final few exhilarating minutes. Arianne Phillips' elite costume design - particularly Florence Pugh's stunning dresses, albeit one "shaggy" Harry Styles avatar is questionably hilarious and screaming to be meme-ed - helps build tempo into the mystery behind the Victory Project. Bringing Olivia Wilde's Victory vision to life on the big screen is Matthew Libatique's experimental cinematography and Katie Byron's intricate production design which is exquisite, even when on your face with recurring dream imagery.
With so many pluses, it's a travesty that Don't Worry Darling is reduced from being a masterpiece because of a shoddy script, which feels like it was in dire need of a couple more rewrites. In conclusion, Don't Worry Darling leaves you with a bitter aftertaste of what could have been...