Don’t Worry Darling is a Disaster on All Levels

Photos Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Where does one even begin when talking about Don’t Worry Darling? The drama surrounding the production and promotion of the film has taken precedence over any aspect of the movie itself. In most cases, it’s important to separate the outside noise from the actual merit of the movie. However, it’s almost impossible to do that with Don’t Worry Darling. In a time where filmmaking and press cycles are streamlined, it was (and still is) baffling to see all the controversy before the release. Fair or unfair, it wouldn’t be enough for Don’t Worry Darling just to be a good movie—it would have to be an exceptional one to rise above the turmoil. 

Let’s just put the drama aside for one second. Established actress and emerging director Olivia Wilde was already taking a big risk with her follow-up to 2019’s wonderful Booksmart. The Black List script was an ambitious one that would be blending multiple genres with major gambles. With a young, stunning, and immensely talented cast, Wilde had her work cut out. To say the expectations were high for this film is an understatement. 

Fans, executives, and anyone involved with Don’t Worry Darling should worry—a lot. This is not just a bad movie, it’s an absolute misfire on every level. From the direction to the writing to an “are-you-kidding-me-is-this-a-joke” third act twist, it’s incredible to see the same person who helmed one of the funniest movies in recent times direct this glamorous trash. 

Alice (Pugh) shockingly cracks an egg with no yolk inside of it.
Alice (Pugh) shockingly cracks an egg with no yolk inside of it.

Barring the third act twist, the plot (if you can call it that) is mostly what you see in the much-better-than-the-movie trailer. Alice (Florence Pugh) and Frank Chambers (Harry Styles) live in the 1950s idealistic and isolated town of Victory. Every man in the town works for the mysterious Victory Project while the women are relegated to the housewife role. Everything is perfect until Alice sees another wife, Margaret (an underused KiKi Layne), lose her sanity. Alice begins to notice cracks in her seemingly utopian life and attempts to figure out what the Victory Project is and what their elusive leader Frank (Chris Pine) is up to. 

Many have made this comparison, but Don’t Worry Darling is like a bad episode of Black Mirror. The script is all over the place and reeks of wannabe David Lynch, Peter Weir, and David Fincher elements. The premise is interesting and the aforementioned trailer did a solid job of showcasing the eerie and psycho-erotic thriller elements of the film. Unfortunately, whatever’s in the trailer is all you get. Don’t Worry Darling is not daring enough to fully become a psychological drama or an erotic thriller or a surrealistic tale. It’s a messy mix of all three with some absolutely haphazard social commentary mixed in. And perhaps screenwriters Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke, and Katie Silberman (who did rewrites to the original script that eventually became the film’s screenplay) superficial and plainly obvious social commentary is what brings the movie to its doom.

See, the first half of Don’t Worry Darling is watchable and glitzy. It’s not perfect or even good by any stretch, but it’s beautiful people in beautiful costumes and locations in this weird utopia. It’s like eating a bag of chips—it’s not good for you but fills you up. As soon as the third act twist comes, the movie ultimately falls off the rails. The apparent themes—patriarchy, sexual equality, incels, “men are trash”—are so painfully obvious and explicit, that it doesn’t leave any ambiguity or challenge for the audience. Had Wilde made a frivolous and campy movie that subtly acknowledges these themes, Don’t Worry Darling would be a slam dunk. The newly-released Barbarian did a terrific job of that by focusing on making a fun and wild horror romp with very slight social commentary. That being said, the social commentary (small it may be) in Barbarian is more effective than whatever Don’t Worry Darling is trying to say. 

Alice does laundry as she wonders what the Victory Project is about.
Alice does laundry as she wonders what the Victory Project is about.

On top of that, the twist is just so asinine, it feels like something that was put in as a joke that someone forgot to take out of the script. Even if you were slightly invested in the movie, the revelation will completely lose you. This would be hard for any director to pull off and, honestly, kudos to Wilde for shooting for the fences. But she misses so badly that the ball ends up hitting one of the fans in the stand. Booksmart has been mentioned a couple of times here but it’s truly a terrific movie. We get such few raunchy studio comedies and Wilde made the last great one. Don’t Worry Darling might have shown the limitations she has as a director. It’s hard to tell if there ever was a great movie hidden in this mess or if the drama was too much for the movie to overcome. But, this film is truly one of the most poorly directed films of the year. 

Aside from the aesthetic of the movie—from the gorgeous sets, period-accurate outfits, and incredibly attractive cast—the only good thing about this movie is Florence Pugh. A good actor shines in great films but a sign of a great actor is when they can elevate everything around them in a bad movie. Miss Flo is one of our great actors and the most talented of her generation. She fits the role perfectly and gives it her all. It doesn’t matter if Alice is distressed, happy, or vengeful, Pugh is tremendous in every scene, looks fantastic, and is acting in circles around everyone. She clearly came out on the winning side of the drama and continues to stay winning. Another performance that was enjoyable was Pine’s menacing Frank who doesn’t get many scenes but makes the most of them.

Frank (Pine) is hosting a party, convincing the town of his plan to change the world.
Frank (Pine) tells Bunny (Wilde) that the Victory Project will change the world.

It must be mentioned that Harry Styles is quite bad in this movie. Bad might be an understatement, there are points where his acting is cringeworthy. Toward the end, he has many scenes where he has outbursts and it just doesn’t work, veering on the line of unintentional comedy. Christopher Nolan used him well—by giving him very few lines—in Dunkirk and it might be a good thing Styles doesn’t plan to act in new films any time soon. It doesn’t help that Styles comes with the baggage of being perhaps the most famous man on the planet. Not his fault at all, but when he’s on screen, you don’t see Frank Chambers—you see Harry Styles. However, it’s a casting choice that Wilde should’ve seen does not work. Infamously, Styles was not the first choice, though I doubt Shia LaBeouf would’ve been any better. 

It’s a cliche to say it now, but the drama surrounding Don’t Worry Darling is far more interesting and entertaining than the movie itself. The alleged Wilde-Styles affair, Wilde-Pugh fallout, divorce papers, spitting accusation, or the Miss Flo of it all will be what everyone remembers from the movie. But, even without the drama, this is just a flat-out heinous film. The only good this movie did was confirm Pugh is a star and there’s no doubt she’s absolutely going to be phenomenal in Dune: Part Two. Aside from that, expect to see Don’t Worry Darling on many top 10 lists at the end of the year. Olivia Wilde and Warner Bros. should worry, though, those will be the worst of the year lists.

Written by Aqib Rasheed

AQIB RASHEED is a staff writer at Film Obsessive. Member of the Chicago Indie Critics and served as the Resident Film Critic for the Loyola Phoenix from 2021-2022. An admirer of movies, old and new, from all over the world. President of the Al Pacino and David Fincher fan clubs.

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