Movie Review: Don’t Worry Darling

Isabella Palacio

A clink of a martini glass invites you into the Chambers’ home. Inside, you’ll meet devoted housewife Alice, a blonde American beauty, and her well-dressed British husband, Jack. Life in The Victory Project reflects a 1950s-esque patriarchal society, with the men leaving to work every morning, while the wives make sure dinner is prepared for their 5’oclock return each evening.

At the beginning of the film, Margaret, one of the other housewives, has an outburst at a gathering for the entire Victory Project. She questions the purpose of them living there and suggests there is something bigger going on behind the scenes. After hearing her claims, Alice begins to have similar suspicions about the Victory Project which are fueled by hallucinations and frightening dreams. While on a trolley ride, Alice witnesses a plane crash out by the project’s restricted headquarters, and decides to go off on her own to investigate. After a strenuous trip through the desert to headquarters, Alice awakes with no concrete recollection of the past hours. Doubts from members of her community, including Jack, begin to make Alice feel more ostracized, just as Margret was at the party. Alice’s suspicions culminate at a dinner party she hosts for her friends and Victory Project Founder – Frank. In an altercation at the dinner table which leads to Alice’s final episode, it is revealed that she is living in an alternate reality, where her husband, Jack works to keep her there. The virtual world remains free of problems, meanwhile in reality, Alice is a vegetable kept prisoner by her boyfriend Jack who lost his job and was consumed by the internet. There he found Frank’s incel forum that inspired the Victory Project. Alice is shocked by the truth of her life as a surgeon that Jack stripped away from her and in a dramatic ‘good for her’ finish ends with bloody revenge as Alice escapes her virtual prison.

This shocking twist revealed about two thirds of the way through the movie can be difficult to understand. With so much build-up to uncover the truth, audience members aren’t expecting the Victory men to be incels working so their spouses can live in this virtual reality. Stylistically, there is a blend of psychological thrill to sci-fi and even feminist critique. Despite the film’s aesthetically pleasing visuals that add to the 1950s retro theme, the ideas presented throughout the film are very predictable: A patriarchal society is inherently bad, and female autonomy is inherently good. I’m all for it, but the execution was mediocre at best. 

And while Florence Pugh offers a bone-chilling performance filled with drama and passion, Harry Styles does not live up to this same standard. Instead, his acting falls rather flat and one-dimensional. Think about it this way– you wouldn’t expect an actor to suddenly become a singer, so why do the same for Harry Styles, who falls flat playing a lead who should be much more complex? Thus, he becomes overshadowed by Chris Pine’s portrayal of the cult-like puppeteer Frank who uses the people of the victory project as characters in a video game. 

Overall, Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling has its merits and faults. With a stunning performance from Florence Pugh and Chris Pine, as well as a great visual aesthetic, it blends in a multitude of styles that never seem to connect with distinct directorial style. An initial concept and script could have performed better with a more cohesive vision from Wilde and a costar to match Pugh’s beautiful ability to perform in this genre.