Updated: Jun 9
By Jack McLaughlin
Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling” had a difficult release just a few weeks ago. Rumors spiraled out of control about the rocky production and promotion of the film, which wasn’t helped by the negative critical response it received on its Sept. 23 release.
While the film has aspects that hold it back from being great, like Harry Styles’ acting, it doesn’t fail to be an entertaining thriller that isn’t nearly as bad as reviewers are making it out to be.
Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star in the project as Jack and Alice, a loving couple who reside in a seemingly perfect town, “The Victory Project.” It isn’t until Alice starts becoming aware of their home’s true horrors that it turns into a living nightmare that she can’t seem to escape from.
The acting is where you’ll be greeted with performances that range from excellent to poor. And to the misfortune of the audience, Styles falls into the latter.
Styles, for the most part, drags down the scenes he is required to act emotionally in and ruins important moments in the second half of the film. His performance until those points feels passive, simply playing the role of a suspicious husband that feels so bland when put next to the enthralling Pugh.
Pugh being the center of the film saved what could have been a boring disappointment. She is so captivating to watch on-screen, especially during the second and third acts where she is directly confronting her situation in riveting sequences that stick out as the highlights of the movie.
The rest of the performances aren’t exactly remarkable. There were characters that needed more screen time to have their potential fully realized. KiKi Layne’s character, Margaret, was critical in propelling the story forward, but she only has a handful of brief scenes which make you want more of her story.
Matthew Libatique, the cinematographer who has proven his worth in visually stunning films such as “Requiem for a Dream,” gives the film a distinct visual flair which is nicely accompanied by the at times bizarre score by John Powell.
The quality of the writing is inconsistent. The first act is filled with scenes driven by expository dialogue, including a total bore of an introduction to Chris Pine’s character who thankfully gets stronger scenes as the film progresses.
But once the plot truly kicks off, around 20-30 minutes in, is when the writing starts to be more consistent and what’s left is a thriller with many unexpected turns.
The conflict stems from Alice telling everyone her concerns and suspicions about their utopian town and everyone accuses her of being crazy. She’s then forced to accept her life because the people around her deem it suitable for her.
Her refusal to accept what everyone around her is saying causes her to dive even deeper into the mystery of the town, making the viewer root for her and truly want her to overcome the corrupt nature of where she lives.
This central message of gaining independence from a misogynistic system constantly trying to push women down is fantastically executed through Alice’s triumph over the town, and specifically her husband.
It was crucial for this aspect of the movie to work, so it’s a relief that despite its issues, this message was conveyed to the viewer in a way that will resonate long after viewing.
The last 15 minutes of the movie are a bit strange. The tense thriller that has been built up the whole time takes a sharp detour in tone for a chase scene that feels completely out of place. It doesn’t last for long thankfully, so it does little damage as the final moments are exceedingly better.
“Don’t Worry Darling” shouldn’t be ignored by audiences and critics. Despite the gripes people will have with the acting or writing, there’s so much to enjoy that these aspects can be forgiven.
A delightful mess