It has not been a good couple weeks for men, as we watched Adam Devine clear his name—thanks to Adam Levine—in a brutal Instagram post, and one of the Try Guys… well, he didn’t try hard enough for his wife. Fortunately, “Don’t Worry Darling,” released in theaters on Sept. 23, was directed by Olivia Wilde, whose newest film perpetuated why we need to practice caution around men. The movie, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, is set in a 1950s town that appears to simulate paradise. While all the men drive to work each morning in their bright and shiny cars, their wives stay behind to clean and cook, but also, to enjoy each other’s company in luxury, such as taking ballet classes and shopping endlessly. They have no reason to drive themselves nor save their drinks for after 5 p.m. Pugh, who plays Alice, is an enjoyer of such a lifestyle until the paradise begins to reveal what’s underneath.
The film’s visual aspects initially set a bright, cheery tone. Both the setting and costuming are designed perfectly to depict a 1950s utopia and the movie is overall pleasing to the eye. The women, especially Pugh, wear big hair and fashionable dresses like many of us have probably worn to kindergarten graduation or Christmas Eve mass. The men are dressed professionally to assert their roles as providers and heads of the house, so this movie may be the tamest we ever see Harry Styles dress again. Alice’s morning routines with her husband Jack (Styles) are filmed and edited in such a way that one may feel like they’re watching a TikTok GRWM video (for those of you who aren’t caught up, that’s short for “get ready with me,” which means… you know what, that’s over my word count. You have access to Google). However, one cannot forget that “Don’t Worry Darling” is a psychological thriller. The movie sets a great tone shift as Alice begins to unravel the makings of her 1950s paradise. Audiences are left on the edges of their seats as the mood becomes eerie and unsettling through the use of black and white filters juxtaposing the innocent, feminine imagery of ballet, Marilyn Monroe hair and a Cinderella allusion. Just as any movie in the thriller genre should, color theory is equally important, so red becomes a recurring visual across many of the characters’ costumes (Tumblr users should take some notes).
Leading up to its release, the psychological thriller was the center of controversy and gossip. The controversy ranged across various levels of seriousness, from tension between Wilde and Pugh regarding the director’s relationship with Styles, to Styles allegedly spitting on Chris Pine at the Venice Film Festival, to various opinions about Styles’ transition from singer to actor (even after all those lyrics across three solo albums and six years in One Direction, his best take on his own film was, “It feels like a movie.” One may wonder what he’ll sing about on HS4). Regardless, throughout the beginning of the film, Styles is seen to be taking some of his singing notes with him to set, such as a tease for his next hit single “Boiling the Potatoes” to practicing what he preaches in “Watermelon Sugar.” Audiences got to watch Styles dance alongside Pine as if standing (and screaming) in the front row at Madison Square Garden. While I’m sure a lot of the movie-goers this weekend paid for their tickets due to their obligations as Harry Styles fans, the pop star is not the focal point of the film. Most of the attention rests on Pugh and her role as a breakaway 1950s housewife.
While this film does not see success through a feminist lens, it is a win for Pugh. She was handed the challenging role of a woman forced to submit to the deceptive world of men around her and she rises to the top with her vibrancy. However, another challenge the actress faced was a one-dimensional character and a plot with many holes. The film can be seen as an attempted commentary on stark gender roles, but the execution was simply lacking: the ending was lackluster and left audiences with no answers or guidance, which could be seen as a metaphor for something larger (as if Wilde never listened to “Watermelon Sugar”). Key plot points such as a plane crash and recurring earthquakes are never explained. The character of Margaret (Kiki Layne) sets off Alice’s journey of discovery, but is forgotten almost completely not too long into the film. The film’s climax experiences an unnecessary “girlboss” moment which I will choose not to spoil, but you’ll know it as soon as you see it, although its effects are never explored.
“Don’t Worry Darling” alluded to the Discord-to-incel pipeline using a key figure one would least expect to fill the role. But overall, there were many missed opportunities that could’ve made the film deeper had they been executed correctly, but most missed the mark. Except for the motif with the tune “With You All the Time,” the movie lacked elements that could’ve brought it to a critically acclaimed level. If you wish to watch a film while assessing it with nothing but a simple mind, then “Don’t Worry Darling” will leave you guessing with its unpredictability and shortcomings. You’ll still be able to enjoy the visuals and the talent of Florence Pugh. However, don’t expect to see much more than a few pretty faces living through a dystopia that expects audiences to accept its reality at a surface level.