A film that will live in infamy—for all the wrong reasons.
“Don’t Worry Darling” is as formulaic as a physiological mystery thriller can be, with so much potential boiling underneath. The bad elements far outweigh the good in Olivia Wilde’s sophomore directorial effort. To put it bluntly, the film is equally as messy as the behind-the-scenes drama that occurred while making and promoting the film.
Set in 1950s America, Alice and Jack (Florence Pugh and Harry Styles) live in a small, picturesque community that is closed off from the real world. Those in the town, however, do not feel trapped. They have everything they need: shopping, parties, a sense of camaraderie. Soon though, Alice begins to question her life and goes toe-to-toe with Frank (Chris Pine), the founder of their close-knit circle.
It’s a classic “something doesn’t feel right” film that struggles from the very beginning, when it delivers the entire exposition within the first twenty minutes. The script tries to rebound and hold back all its twists and turns, but it’s too late. For a good mystery to be effective, the audience should be guessing right up until the screenwriter decides to let all hell break loose. Instead, the thrill of trying to piece together what is wrong in the fictional town of Victory, California is taken away from the audience, replaced with over two hours of beating around the bush.
For a film that stars big names like Florence Pugh, Harry Styles and Chris Pine, among others, it should be easy for the audience to be entertained by the mere spectacle of everything. But watching this film feels like a chore. When the expected twist finally occurs, moviegoers will let out an audible groan and a collective eye roll.
When trying to figure out what went wrong, it’s easiest to turn to Wilde’s lack of direction. While she does have a good eye for shot composition, as the beautiful cinematography by Matthew Libatique is the best part of the film, Wilde struggles to capture a cohesive, entertaining story.
This story, however, struggled first on the page. Katie Silberman, who worked with Wilde on the massively successful “Booksmart”, rewrote the script which originally appeared on The Black List- a list of “most liked” not yet produced scripts. Somehow, Silberman managed to take away most of the appeal that was present in the original script. The audience is left with a meandering plot that arrives at its destination too late. Just like the plane featured on the poster and in the film – though never explained after – Wilde’s film crashes and burns.
On the positive side, the cast is largely committed to their roles. Pugh does her usual best and knocks it out of the park as a housewife probing for answers.
Harry Styles, on the other hand, should head back to the recording studio. His scenes, even the most serious ones, are often comical due to his overacting. The One Direction alum can’t hold his own against talent like Pugh, whose character he is supposed to be gaslighting. His casting proves that not every popular musician is the next Barbra Streisand or Lady Gaga.
For those who have watched the film’s trailers and felt intrigued by the promise of mystery, glitz, and glam: stay home. In addition to the on-set drama that has taken social media by storm, “Don’t Worry Darling” has an awful lot to worry about once audiences start to tear the film apart.