Don’t Worry Darling has been in no short supply of attention over the past year, for better or worse. Nonetheless, the invaluable time and energy hundreds of creatives have put into the project make it deserving of being critiqued without a lens of distortional gossip standing in the way. With this in mind, Don’t Worry Darling flaunts a few tricks up its sleeves in delivering a worthwhile viewing experience. The film follows Alice (Florence Pugh), a complaisant housewife, living amongst the rolling hills of Palm Springs with her husband Jack (Harry Styles). The couple reside within a compound of sorts called “Victory,” watched over with a careful eye by their authoritarian leader Frank (Chris Pine). When Alice’s friend and fellow homemaker Margaret (Kiki Layne) starts to show signs of what is proclaimed to be unwarranted psychosis, she also begins to question her unusually picture-perfect existence.
From the very start, the film’s technical merit is conclusive, boasting majestic images that transport you to a historically accurate yet otherworldly feeling, a 1950s sunbaked paradise. However, nothing is ever as it seems and idealism has consequences on progression. The townswomen are bound to their homely community while all the men depart daily to undertake mysterious jobs at Victory HQ. Pacified by pool days and shopping trips, the story provides just enough normality for Alice and her female neighbors before cracks in the illusion become increasingly noticeable, and more notably, terrifying.
Director Olivia Wilde’s (Booksmart) refined vision shines through ceaselessly, spearheading a slew of meticulously designed stylistic choices to create a vibrant world plagued by sinister undertones. John Powell’s base heavy score is all-encompassing, a rare musical experience where each beat is felt throughout your body and draws you further into the mayhem ensuing on screen. Don’t Worry Darling is very well-rounded in its technical strength, exquisite sound and vision bolster this tale that otherwise could have fallen flat under less inspired hands. And this is quite clear since the film’s script is its least remarkable component.
The overall story of Don’t Worry Darling is by no means anything revolutionary and can even be predictable at times. But to be fair, in this day and age, it is somewhat difficult to find stories and styles that are not reinvented from classics that we know and love. More often than not, movies are more enjoyable when we choose to accept their employment of inspiration and what new spins of a proven narrative they can bring to the table. Don’t Worry Darling isn’t a layered cinematic masterpiece, yet it doesn’t need that status in order to be effective and entertaining.
This is undoubtedly Harry Styles’ most substantial role to date, sliding into the role of a dapper gentleman without difficulty. Styles shares a tender chemistry with Florence Pugh, driving the film’s emotional drama home. Oliva Wilde herself reminds audiences of her acting capabilities when not behind the camera, taking on the part of Bunny, the perfect foil to her distressed best friend Alice. Likewise, Chris Pine nails the menacing yet alluring dictator Frank, although he plays a much smaller part in the bigger picture than anticipated. Still, this doesn’t take away from Pine’s commanding screen presence.
Rounding out the packed ensemble of Don’t Worry Darling is Gemma Chan and Kiki Layne who are compelling in their relatively compact supporting roles. An actor who will likely and, unfortunately, fly under the radar is Asif Ali, who you might recognize as Norm from Marvel’s WandaVision, wherein he ironically played another brainwashed townsperson. His spirit and passion can be felt in his regrettably minuscule screen time in Don’t Worry Darling. It would certainly be a pleasure to see him on screen in a larger capacity sometime in the near future.
Don’t Worry Darling may feature plenty of star power, with everyone playing their part, no matter how big or small, but one thing is for certain, this is Florence Pugh’s world and we’re all just living in it. She is a classic movie star, worthy of all the praise that is once again coming her way. Her effortless dedication to every aspect of her performance does not go for granted, it reminds us of her powerhouse status at all times, with no exceptions. She leaves every fragment of emotion on screen for audiences to marvel at. For all that it has going for it, Don’t Worry Darling would not be the same film without Pugh being front and center.
At the end of the day, Don’t Worry Darling is intended to be a crowd-pleaser through and through. And it gets the job done in this regard superbly. Everything that has been sold to us as filmgoers in the lead-up to its release comes together in a neatly packed two-hour run time. This is a film with an incredibly high rewatchability factor, a sought-after but not frequently achieved trait with many main event or “tentpole” films today. Don’t Worry Darling is a true dystopian blast from start to finish.