If you’ve spent any time online in the past few weeks, “Don’t Worry Darling” needs no introduction. Between Harry Styles’ now infamous interview at Venice Film Festival (he was right — the movie does feel like a movie), Florence Pugh’s conspicuous absence from that same event, Olivia Wilde’s public feud with former star Shia LaBeouf, and perhaps the most bizarre, the Harry Styles and Chris Pine ‘spit gate’, “Don’t Worry Darling” was facing a barrage of criticism and unfortunate viral tweets well before even hitting the silver screen. The film’s trailer was met with trepidation, Styles’ labored acting skills looked all the worse next to Pugh’s natural delivery, and critics haven’t been exactly kind to Wilde’s sophomore directorial credit. The question remained, however, if, after all this, the movie would actually be any good. The verdict? It’s good enough, and sometimes that’s okay.
“Don’t Worry Darling” tells the story of Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles), the picture of mid-century domestic bliss, as they enjoy life in the town of Victory, an experimental community part-company town, part-luxury resort. All seems perfect, her the glamorous housewife and him the successful breadwinner, until, of course, it isn’t. Alice starts to notice cracks in their seemingly perfect life and begins to wonder what exactly it is her husband is doing at the Victory Project before everything starts to unravel. It’s a classic “Stepford Wives” tale, and Wilde’s take on the story is not particularly revolutionary. That being said, the movie is still solid. It’s visually stunning, with a gorgeous set and costume design, and the film’s supporting cast does wonders for what might otherwise be a slightly weak script. There are some memorable scenes, to be sure (no spoilers, but if you’ve ever wondered what Harry Styles might look like tap dancing, you’re in luck), and the movie makes a strong attempt at delivering a solid feminist message.
If anything, the film falters because it doesn’t quite go far enough. Dancing on the edge of thriller and horror, viewers might find themselves willing to tip into the latter category. The film’s visuals give it a glorious setup, but it almost seems to run out of steam near the end as the story wraps up and the ending comes into sight. Pugh does a brilliant job of portraying the “darling” of the film’s title, but the material itself feels slightly limiting, and we’re left wondering what might have been if she were given more to work with. On the other end of the spectrum, Styles seems pushed to his limit by the film’s script. His acting is passable, even good when he’s on the sidelines, but when he’s required to carry a scene himself, things get a little shaky. Perhaps it wouldn’t even be that bad if Styles wasn’t forced to act opposite to Pugh, who lights up every scene she’s in, but the pairing doesn’t do Styles any justice. Ultimately, it’s Pugh that saves the movie. She gives a shining performance and keeps the film on track despite its poor pacing, which is somehow both too fast and too slow. Clocking in at just over two hours, the film might have been better served with a longer runtime, if only just to give the overstuffed plot more time to breathe.
That being said, “Don’t Worry Darling” may be not the best movie you’ll ever watch, but not every movie has to be. For Styles fans, Wilde haters, and everyone in between, the film is worth seeing, even if it won’t change your life. Expect great visuals, a fantastic leading lady, and a storyline that’ll keep you guessing right to the end.
Title: “Don’t Worry Darling”
Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde
Director(s): Olivia Wilde
If you like: “The Stepford Wives”, “Severance”, “Pleasantville”
Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5