By Carter James
For the past few months, my already great interest for director Olivia Wilde’s sophomoric thriller has increased, as it has been wrapped in controversy and mixed festival reception. Amidst all the controversy on and off set, I had one question, “Is this film a trainwreck?”. While I believe “Don’t Worry Darling” is far from a trainwreck, it is also far from being a good film.
The film follows Alice (Florence Pugh), a 1950s housewife who finds out the dark secrets within her utopian town and comes head-to-head with its cult-like leader Frank (Chris Pine), as Alice’s suspicions are swept under the rug by Frank and the town at large. As ambitious and intriguing (conceptually) ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is, it is also uninspired and dull, giving me more questions than answers.
If you’ve watched the trailers for ‘Don’t Worry Darling,’ you have seen most of the film. There is nothing interesting to be said, or any thematic presence at all. What you get is a drawn-out psychological thriller that left me uninterested and bored for most of its runtime. Once the film starts to pick up in its third act, it results in a rushed end. There are so many questions and plot threads left in the air that the film is incomplete, with no sign of a part two in the horizon.
Where ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ lacks in its screenplay and pacing, an attempt is made at compelling performances. Pugh carries the movie without a doubt. While I don’t think its awards worthy or career performance, she still does a fantastic job. The movie would’ve been doomed if without her.
Harry Styles, who plays Alice’s husband Jack, is exactly how you would think he is as an actor: barely alright. His performance isn’t offensively bad, but it’s in no way good or even competent. Every line he delivers has mix of English, American and Australian accents, all in one. He had a lot to prove as an actor, but proves that he should stick to his generic music. Pine does a great job as a shallow antagonist, but never is given enough to shine. He’s never truly challenged as an antagonist and instead talks in monologues.
The most surprising performance however, was from Olivia Wilde. She gave a strong and compelling performance, as her character, Bunny, is the most complex person in the film. I found her performance better than her directing. Wilde is a confident director, no doubt, but doesn’t try to innovate within her style. It comes off more “by-the-books” directing than changing her style. That being said, the film is still technically stunning and Wilde has a keen eye for dazzling visuals.
From a technical standpoint, “Don’t Worry Darling” has all the ingredients to be unforgettably great. Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is gorgeous and adds to the ambitious façade the film has. John Powell’s score is creative, yet never moved me. The production and costume design are, arguably, the best part of the film. The costumes are bright and colorful and go really well with the fun locations featured throughout.
“Don’t Worry Darling” is a premature film that falls into too many conventions of the psychological thriller genre. Even with its confident direction and strong lead performance, the hollow screenplay holds the film back from having any nuance. It’s baffling how an interesting concept had such vapid and dull results. 2.5/5