Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, odds are you’ve heard at least something about Olivia Wilde’s latest film Don’t Worry Darling, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles. Most likely, you’ve read headlines about casting feuds, on-set affairs or spitting accusations and concluded, unlike Styles in his viral interview, that this movie feels anything but like an actual movie.
On top of all this drama, it doesn’t help that the film itself received a mere 38% on Rotten Tomatoes ahead of its release in theaters on Sept. 23. Moreover, while Pugh has earned glowing critical reviews for her performance, Styles’ performance has hardly been reported favorably.
So with all this in mind, when I walked into the theater, I fully expected a cringe-fest of angsty overacting and convoluted plot, but — hot take — this film is actually not that bad.
The film centers around married couple Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles) living in Victory, a creepy yet colorful reimagining of 1950s suburbia. This community is governed by strict gender roles and rigid heteronormativity, with men commuting every day to work on a mysterious, classified project while their wives stay at home to cook and clean. Yet, this “utopia” is not the perfect illusion it appears, pushing Alice to uncover the truth about her world.
Admittedly, the majority of the movie is slow and confusing. The shots, while beautiful and smart cinematographically, can only do so much to dispel the crawling pace. Yet, even as we trudge through aesthetically bizarre scenes and clips, the film builds to a satisfying and unmistakable climax in the last 20 minutes or so as Alice’s carefully curated world begins to unravel.
It’s here that the movie really begins to shine and formerly confusing scenes click into place like pieces in a puzzle. The plot manages to twist and turn its way into a thoughtful, psychological film about order and control, emphasized repeatedly by Victory’s cultish mantra, “The enemy of progress is chaos.” Alice’s relationship with Jack draws attention to the toxic possessiveness that comes with standard patriarchal roles that paint men as providers and women as caregivers. The film also delves into grief and an inability to let go and surrender control after tragedy.
These themes only make more poignant Wilde’s decision to base this film off of a setting commonly associated with nuclear families, 2.5 kids and white picket fences. This film really questions the lengths that we, as a society and as individuals, will go to preserve this “perfect” family, whatever form it may take.
The film explores sexuality and love and the expression of sexuality in love. It investigates the invasion of privacy, the lines drawn between the collective and individual and what we surrender to be part of a whole. It addresses the credibility of women in a society dominated by men and male accountability.
The way everything comes together in the final minutes is honestly a sensory overload, and it wasn’t until I watched the final credits flash on the screen that I was finally able to take a breath and relax off the edge of my seat.
I should clarify, however, that this film is by no means perfect. Minor details and plot points remain unexplained. We are given a villain and side characters, yet they don’t feel like 3D, fully fleshed-out individuals. We are deprived of their motivations and backstories even as their fates are revealed. We are given closure for stories that we didn’t learn enough to want closure about. Not to mention, Style’s acting is at times comical and evoked some laughs in the theaters. Some of the action shots felt cartoonish and contrived, especially in the final portion of the movie.
However, all in all, this film offers insightful and revealing social commentary that left my mind spinning hours after I viewed it. It may not be perfect and is by no means a masterpiece, but if you’re looking for something different to watch on a Friday night, I would definitely recommend it. Acting choices and plot holes aside, this film is definitely worth a watch.