Alice and Jack Chambers are living a picture perfect life in the small community of Victory. While the men work, the wives spend their days cooking, cleaning and enjoying the luxury Victory has to offer them. There are rules to follow, of course. The wives are not allowed to ask their husbands what kind of work they do for the Victory Project, nor are they allowed to venture past a certain point in town due to the hazardous nature of the project’s work. But Alice and Jack’s perfect life is jeopardized when Alice begins having hallucinations and questioning both the project and Frank, the charismatic founder and leader of Victory.
Director Olivia Wilde’s sophomore film has certainly garnered plenty of buzz, though not for the quality of the film but for the on-set drama surrounding it. To be honest, the behind-the-scenes mess is probably the best thing to happen to the movie. Don’t they say any press is good press? And Don’t Worry Darling needs all the help it can get.
Visually, the movie is a treat. Everything about it embraces a rosy vision of the 1950s, idyllic and carefree. Florence Pugh gives a stellar performance as Alice, a happy enough housewife who is noticing cracks in the facade of their perfect community. Pugh is the standout, although she is supported well by Chris Pine, who gives everything he has into the underdeveloped role of Victory’s founder, Frank. The most captivating moments of Don’t Worry Darling are when these two go head to head on screen and it doesn’t happen as often as I would have liked.
Harry Styles is passable as Jack, although I feel as though he was terribly miscast. A stronger actor in the role may have pushed the film to something great instead of just okay.
The biggest issue with Don’t Worry Darling is that it feels like there is a truly great movie in there somewhere, but that great movie ended up on the cutting room floor. There are questions posed and never answered, moments that happen in the film that feel significant, but are never revisited or dealt with.
Kiki Layne appears briefly as Margaret, a distressed woman who is the first to question the Victory Project. Her character is by far the most intriguing one, but while they hint at her backstory, it’s never expanded upon or explained beyond a few throwaway lines. Learning that most of her scenes were cut only makes Wilde’s decisions more frustrating.
Even more perplexing to me is that Wilde has promoted her film under the guise of female empowerment, but there is nothing empowering about the situation Alice finds herself in or why. Wilde boasting about female pleasure in the press is disappointing, considering the context of the entire thing. I can’t explain why without spoiling the film, so I will just leave it there. If you think you’ve figured it out, you’re probably right.
Don’t Worry Darling has an impressive cast and beautiful cinematography, but at the end of the day, it’s taken a tired premise and presented it in a confusing, disjointed nature that is wholly unsatisfying.