Don’t Worry Darling

Don't Worry Darling
Don’t Worry Darling
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Olivia Wilde tanks her sophomore film. Don’t Worry Darling is a clunky patriarchy thriller whose only mystery is hiding an obvious plot. Gender inequity and female subjugation are handled with all the subtlety of a fire hose. It’s pretty clear where the narrative is going within the first few minutes, and then you spend the rest of your life waiting for the protagonist to catch up. Bizarre imagery and sounds do nothing but make you mad; instead of being intriguing, they’re just annoying. Don’t Worry Darling needed to be more understated in every direction.

Florence Pugh plays Alice Chambers, a housewife who cooks and cleans and looks stunning while she does it. She has steak dinners and cocktails waiting for her husband when he gets home from a hard day’s work; Jack (Harry Styles) shows up at dawn and disappears until dusk like every other man in their fifties suburban cul-de-sac. They’re working on the Victory Project, which is top-secret; significant others know better than to ask what they’re doing or go into the desert that surrounds their gated community.

The wives laugh, gossip, take ballet classes together — all strictly overseen by Shelly (Gemma Chan), wife of Frank (Chris Pine), who is essentially the cult leader that heads up the Victory Project. His omnipresent teachings echo from billboards, radios, televisions; everyone involved in VP clamors for Frank & Shelly’s approval.

The facade starts cracking when a beloved neighbor begins asking questions; Margaret (KiKi Layne) is quickly branded “unwell” due to her outbursts about what she believes is really going on behind their closed doors – Bunny (Wilde), Alice’s best friend, tells all the other wives to stay away from her crazy ass. Another horrific event flips Alice’s switch: She becomes uneasy when official accounts don’t add up regarding Margaret’s incident, then a different kind of weirdness sends her on a solo trek into the desert to see the Victory Project for herself and find out what their husbands are doing.

Don’t Worry Darling starts off by pouring the narrative batter thick. Apron-clad Alice vacuuming and cleaning windows could’ve been pulled from an antiquated page of Life magazine; all the wives look impeccable. Graphic sex scenes early on (in addition to them not being allowed to drive) serve as sledgehammer clues to the rub. The Victory Project is male dominated fantasy at its most extreme — bacon-bringing husbands with subordinate cooking wives who raise children, keep homes tidy, & are available in an instant for sexual gratification.

I had two performance issues: Chris Pine’s Frank is so overblown that it almost becomes laughable; he’s Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite –– all wrapped up into one and cranked up to 11. Pine has immeasurable screen presence but this is just poorly used; Frank ends up coming off more diabolically comical than creepy. The other misstep belongs to Harry Styles’ Jack — never believable or impactful in a crucial role; insert sigh here. There may have been some merit to the tabloid fracas between Wilde & original cast Shia LaBeouf as Jack; final product = flawed – Jack stands out as weak link especially when you can’t help but think that LaBeouf (a brilliant actor despite personal shortcomings) would’ve killed pivotal scenes.

Don’t Worry Darling was disappointing… My excitement was nowhere close to met; its themes hold teeth but fall short when executed onscreen. Wilde is good actress capable filmmaker – Booksmart was banner directorial debut so she’ll bounce back on next outing no doubt about that!!!

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