Don’t Worry Darling Movie Review
A perfect life in the 1950′s?
WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY)
Don’t Worry Darling, the new film directed by Olivia Wilde, may be as well-known for the drama offscreen as the drama onscreen. Plagued with on-set discord rumors, the film had a lot of buzz going into its theatrical release.
A genre blending—sci-fi, horror, psychological drama, domestic satire- Don’t Worry Darling looks terrific; costumes, sets, cinematography, production design, including the great cars, are all top notch. It takes place in the 1950′s American Southwest, which seems like a mythical place of conformist utopia, where husbands go to work on a mysterious “project” while the women stay home and keep house. The project has allusions to nuclear weapon testing and artificial intelligence, all the men who work there appear to be perfect husbands who have sold their soul for the perfect life.
But all does not seem peachy to pretty, smart Alice, played by the fabulous Florence Pugh, who is married to the dashing Jack (Harry Styles). She slowly notices that something is off. Eggs she cracks for breakfast are empty, and she constantly has a suffocating feeling. She witnesses the injury of a disgruntled neighbor who is both a harbinger and a pariah for trying to warn Alice that something is amiss. But no one believes her and even Alice herself isn’t sure if she has dreamed it. Her curiosity and “worry” continue to plague her and the mystery escalates when she gets off the town trolley at the last stop to see where a small plane has crashed, even though she is forbidden to enter a restricted area.
After meeting and confronting Jack’s menacing boss, Frank (Chris Pine), who has created the “project” and utopian community, Alice is thoroughly convinced that something evil and morally wrong is taking place. She tries to convince Jack to leave the community, but much like the lyric from Hotel California, “You can check out any time you like. But you can never leave.”
Don’t Worry Darling is an exercise in atmosphere and design, but the story has gone AWOL. The writers think they are leaving breadcrumbs, but it is a tedious trek on this path. Omens and weird stuff seldom lead to any escalation in plot or emotional involvement for the viewer. I don’t believe every question posed has to have an answer, or everything needs to be tied up in a bow, but there are just too many weird incidents in this film that lead nowhere, except more confusion. Where is the crashed plane? How come some cartons of eggs are real and others are empty (fake) shells? The filmmakers seem to equate vagueness with intrigue.
The whole thing is paced and proportioned oddly, when the big reveal finally happens in the third act, you can barely remember all the red herrings that proceeded it. It’s unfortunate because the big reveal is fun and clever and creates tension and interest. But is all a too little and too late and resolves too quickly without answering enough questions.
Pugh’s performance is by far the best in the film, but she is often wasted and her character inactive. Styles’ performance isn’t very good, especially when he attempts anger. Most shocking is Wilde’s overwrought performance as Alice’s cheeky best friend, which isn’t nuanced, but often melodramatic. Apparently, she cannot direct her own performance. Pine fares much better as the slick, sexy dangerous head of the company. There are a lot of interesting images and ideas in this film, but ultimately, they don’t gel, and you may find yourself googling for cliff notes, while feeling sorry for Florence Pugh.
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