By Samuel M Acosta
This review contains spoilers for “Don’t Worry Darling.”
I went into this film with low expectations following the weeks of drama leading up to its release. Low critic scores, actor drama, and just an overall chaotic premiere caused me to temper the excitement that I had experienced when I first saw the trailer. After seeing the movie for myself, I decided that the critics were both right and wrong. While “Don’t Worry Darling” is a mediocre film, it is only because it failed to tie all of its masterful components together into a cohesive unit.
“Don’t Worry Darling” follows Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles) as they live in the town of Victory, a 1950’s paradise nothing short of stunning beauty and bliss, reinforced by stereotypical gender roles in the home. Alice soon begins to question the perfect nature of the community as she notices more and more abnormalities. Despite being told that her questions could put Jack’s position in jeopardy, Alice continues to delve deeper into the mysteries of Victory, until she finally finds out the community’s dark truth.
Before I dig into the flaws of this film, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the brilliance of the film’s parts. The first is the acting. Florence Pugh brings her all into this and I was captivated by her in each and every scene she was in. Chris Pine did a wonderful job of being a charismatic leader of the community and adding a new layer of mystery. These two carried the film and did a great job of giving depth, even in some of the movie’s shallower moments.
The costumes and sets are spectacular and I loved how they use this bright aesthetic to contrast the darkness of reality. It was so visually appealing that I found myself just enjoying the scenery, forgetting that any action was taking place.
The concepts for many of the plot points were quite brilliant; for example,the confrontation between Frank and Alice, the fact that Bunny knew the truth about Victory, and Alice’s re-programming to be a part of the society are all intriguing concepts. Yet all of this brilliance, when put together, just became a jumbled mess.
Harry Styles is one of the first mistakes this film makes. While I admit that likely a large portion of audiences went to see this film just to see Harry Styles, I think this just shows that he is misplaced. He has some strong acting moments, but a lot of times he just stands out. It felt like I wasn’t looking at Jack Chambers but at Harry Styles. It seems like they just wanted to pick the most attractive male actor they could find to be eye candy, which ends up making him this beautiful glowing distraction instead of an integral part of the film.
The rest of the film is just one huge pacing issue. Within the first five minutes, Alice begins having visions and flashes, thinking that she is going crazy. The film then spends the next twenty or so minutes building up the fact that Alice knows that something is wrong with Victory. This results in two problems for the film. First, we get no time to settle into Victory as a community before things go wrong, which automatically disconnects us from the setting. Second, there is too much time wasted on this part of the film. We only need one or two examples of Alice going crazy, but instead, we get five or six. Maybe if this was the core of the film I would be more accepting of it, but this is only one of several major plot points.
Next is the mistake of critically underutilizing Chris Pine. The character of Frank is given a strong foundation, as we see him as the leader of Victory and he seemingly has a higher intellect than everyone else. One of the big twists of the movie is Frank’s conversation with Alice, telling her that he knows that she is asking questions and breaking the rules. Instead of being angry about it, however, he is intrigued and even invites her to go to war with him, as if it is all a big game to him. Yet, this whole war climaxes during a five to ten minute dinner scene, and then it’s all over. It was such a waste of an amazing concept that I couldn’t pay attention to what happened next because I was so disappointed.
What’s even more frustrating is the very end of the movie when Frank’s wife Shelley (Gemma Chan) kills him for allowing Alice to escape. She reveals that she is the actual boss, and states that she will fix the situation, but the movie ends merely a minute later, giving us no closure at all. We never know why Shelley was in charge or what she really wanted. It just made Frank a useless pawn and undermined a lot of what the rest of the movie was building.
What I feel like the biggest mistake “Don’t Worry Darling” makes, however, was how they approached the movie’s biggest twist. It is revealed that Victory is a digital world. All the wives have been trapped in by their husbands and when the husbands go to work each day, they are actually going back into the real world to earn enough money to let them stay in Victory. We then get flashbacks to Alice and Jack’s life before they joined Victory, where Alice was a doctor who paid most of the bills and Jack was a deadbeat who struggled to find a job. He eventually finds the Victory project and signs them up for it without Alice’s knowledge.
As a concept, I absolutely love this. But the way it was executed was so sloppy and rushed. I wanted to know more about what was happening outside the world and maybe get Jack’s perspective on day-to-day life. Plus, it really muddied up what happened when Alice got “re-programmed” the first time she went crazy. I just felt like there could’ve been a much cleaner way to make it all work.
As I’ve said, this movie has so many brilliant parts. What makes it a mediocre film is not just the messy nature, but also just the feeling of disappointment you get knowing that it could have been so much better.
I give “Don’t Worry Darling” a 5/10.
Sam Acosta is a Senior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an Arts and Entertainment writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper, and writing plays.
Images courtesy of Warner Bro. Pictures