Don’t Worry Darling REVIEW: An ambitious feminist film sabotaged by its own reputation | Movies | Entertainment

don't worry darling

Florence Pugh stars in this stylish mystery (Picture: WARNER BROS)

With the likeable coming-of-age comedy Booksmart already under her belt, actress and director Olivia Wilde’s new offering should have left audiences intrigued to see what was to come next. Instead, thanks to a mix of awkward interviews, tense reports between cast members, and some truly memorable moments (See: “My favorite thing about the movie is that it feels like a movie” – Harry Styles), Don’t Worry Darling seemed doomed from the start.

Despite all the drama, audiences may be surprised to find that the sleek, tension-filled film actually makes for a few enjoyable hours. First of all, the film is beautiful to watch. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who has worked on some of Darren Aronofsky’s best work including Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, assures it’s a sensory delight from start to finish. Every morning, in their quaint little cul-de-sac, wives emerge from their identical homes to bid farewell to their identically dressed husbands as they leave for work at exactly the same time. The eerie uniformity and vibrant use of color is very reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands – another nightmarish version of the American dream from the mind of Tim Burton.

It should also come as no great surprise that, as usual, Florence Pugh’s performance is top-notch. Pugh plays Alice Chambers, one of the wives of the men working in the mysterious “Victory Project”. This small group of couples and their children live in a planned community in a remote part of a California desert in what appears to be the late 1950s. Over the course of the film, it quickly becomes apparent that all is not as it is. seems, but Pugh manages to deliver a nuanced performance amid overbearing symbolism. A lesser actress might have put together a detached routine, smiling through the pain, Betty Draper from Mad Men. Instead, Pugh’s performance is full of life and driven by a desperate, defiant spark that makes his character engrossing to watch. Without a doubt, the lead role in the film elevates the whole play and is worth it.

Meanwhile, Chris Pine is surprisingly believable as the cult’s charismatic leader – though admittedly his character is a fairly one-dimensional villain. While he does a great job of plastering on a sinister smile, some of the best scenes in the movie came out of his interactions with Pugh’s character. The chemistry between the two is electric, and in one scene in particular, I was amazed that she didn’t walk across the dinner table with a kitchen knife in her hand.

don't worry darling

Olivia Wilde plays her own disturbing version of The Stepford Wives (Picture: WARNER BROS)

One of the biggest question marks hanging over the film has to do with Harry Styles’ acting ability. Many thought his performance would be a total car crash, but I thought it was actually perfectly adequate for the first half of the movie. The popstar is passable in the, again, fairly one-dimensional role of a wide-eyed, ambitious young businessman and devoted husband. Unfortunately, it fails when the film reaches its emotional peak, where it needs more intensity than it can deliver – especially when faced with a talent like Pugh. Still, it’s just as hard to imagine original casting choice Shia LaBeouf out of place as an affable, easy-to-handle young employee.

The plot of Don’t Worry Darling will no doubt be divisive with audiences, as it all hinges on one big twist. Some viewers might be irritated by the use of such a plot device. However, I felt the twist worked, as its purpose was to convey the central message of the film. That said, after the twist is revealed, the pacing becomes rushed as the film attempts to cram a plausible explanation at lightning speed into the final act. And, even despite the big reveal, we’re still left with a million more questions about Project Victory and what it all means.

don't worry darling

Harry Styles drew criticism for his performance in the film (Picture: WARNER BROS)

The first half of the film is actually where the mystery is most interesting, as Pugh’s jarring flashbacks and bizarre hallucinations hint at something more sinister beneath the shiny surface of their seemingly perfect community. Throughout the film, it feels like these women are suffocating. This is illustrated in one of his most disturbing scenes, which sees Pugh’s character feel the irresistible urge to suffocate himself with cling film while preparing food in the kitchen. Even the scenes where the character is happy make you want to scream. At first, we see Alice relentlessly scrubbing every surface in the house before spending hours cooking an elaborate dinner and setting the dining room table. When her husband (Styles) comes home from work, he decides to “treat his wife” to raunchy antics on said table, negating the carefully prepared feast.

Despite the film’s mid-20th century setting, there’s a scathing social commentary at its center that reminds us that gender inequality is a pervasive problem. The idea that men and women have to make different sacrifices and are entitled to different rewards. The idea that one light must be dimmed for another to shine. In this post-Trump era of incel culture and the rise in popularity of online misogynists like Andrew Tate, it sometimes feels like we’re on the fence.

don't worry darling

The film leaves its viewers with many questions (Picture: WARNER BROS)

In the end, Don’t Worry Darling feels like he’s dancing over the precipice of something deeper, and as he pushes deeper and deeper into deeper revelation, Wilde never pulls off that extra layer. to show the real ugliness underneath. A comparison can be made here with Wilde’s first film, Booksmart – a fantasy film which suffers from a similar flaw. At the film’s climax, where high school best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) argue at a party, Wilde again chooses to drown out her lyrics with music rather than let such a ugliness exposed.

Two films and multiple PR nightmares later, Wilde has proven herself to be a talented filmmaker – but as she continues to retreat, she has yet to strike the gold. Nevertheless, Roland Barthes once wrote that “the birth of the reader must come at the price of the death of the Author”. In that same spirit, is it really fair that this film can be judged as mere Hollywood fodder? Surely we, the public, should strive to separate the art from the artist. Two thoughts to leave you with: this film was not a disaster; it was definitely a movie.

Express.co.uk had the opportunity to attend the first screening of Don’t Worry Darling at the brand new Cinema for all at Egham, Surrey.



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