In Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” every detail exudes retro chic, from the elegant cocktail dresses to the classic convertibles. Set in the idyllic suburban town of Victory, with its minimalist mid-century modern homes and lively dinner parties, the film initially entices audiences with a picture-perfect world.
However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that something sinister lurks beneath the surface. While the film has its moments of intrigue and strong performances, it ultimately falls short in delivering a fully satisfying experience.
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A Promising Premise with Half-Baked Execution
“Don’t Worry Darling” attempts to explore the theme of patriarchal tyranny disguised as domestic bliss, a concept that has been explored in various forms in the past.
Unfortunately, the film fails to bring new ideas to the table, relying heavily on familiar tropes and inspirations from works like “The Stepford Wives” and “Mad Men.” Florence Pugh, in her role as the perceptive Alice, serves as the voice of reason amidst the seemingly joyful façade.
Pugh’s performance is commendable, reminiscent of her powerful work in “Midsommar.” It’s a shame that her character’s warnings are constantly dismissed, as if the world refuses to heed her insights. Pugh’s talent shines through, making it all the more evident that her co-star, Harry Styles, was not quite ready for the challenges of this role.
An Uneven Performance from Harry Styles
Styles, known primarily as a pop star, has a natural appeal that suits the aesthetic of “Don’t Worry Darling.” He looks the part of an empty, handsome figure with his slim suits and striking features.
The camera adores him. However, when it comes to delivering the emotional depth required for intense scenes opposite Pugh, Styles falls short and becomes distractingly outmatched. While his casting is an interesting choice, it’s hard to imagine Shia LaBeouf, who was originally cast in the role, portraying the earnest young company man with the same level of finesse and subtlety.
A World of Promise and Repetition
Set in a planned Palm Springs community during the mid-1950s, the film introduces viewers to a group of forward-thinking families seeking a new way of life.
The men head off to their top-secret jobs at the Victory Project while the wives tend to their domestic duties and engage in daytime drinking. Gemma Chan’s character, Shelley, embodies the glamour of this setting, assuring her guests that their way of life is superior. Chris Pine portrays Shelley’s husband, Frank, with a devious charm reminiscent of a self-satisfied cult leader.
As Alice begins to question her reality, the film relies on impressionistic visuals and nightmares to convey her mounting anxiety.
Unfortunately, these visuals grow repetitive and wearisome, failing to evoke the desired sense of disturbance. The heavy-handed score further dictates the audience’s emotions rather than allowing for organic engagement. The film’s ultimate revelation falls flat, leaving more questions than answers and exposing the script’s underdeveloped ideas.
Glittering Craftsmanship Amidst a Lackluster Climax
Despite its narrative shortcomings, “Don’t Worry Darling” boasts impeccable craftsmanship. Matthew Libatique’s cinematography captures the gleaming beauty of the era, complemented by Katie Byron’s flawless production design and Arianne Phillips’ stunning costumes. These elements elevate the film, ensuring it remains visually captivating.
However, as the climax approaches, Wilde loses her grip on the material. The pacing becomes erratic, and the ultimate mystery is revealed through a rushed exposition dump, leaving audiences both dizzy and perplexed.
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In conclusion, “Don’t Worry Darling” falls short of its potential. While it offers glimpses of brilliance, especially in the performances of Florence Pugh and Chris Pine during their tense confrontations, the film struggles to deliver a cohesive and satisfying experience.
The reliance on familiar tropes and half-baked ideas, coupled with a disappointing climax, leaves audiences craving more substance. Nonetheless, the film’s impeccable craftsmanship and thought-provoking premise ensure that it remains watchable.
After the credits roll, viewers will likely find themselves engaged in more insightful discussions than the film itself could provide.