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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Reel Critic: Don’t Worry Darling

Where to begin. “Don’t Worry Darling” is a big-budget, star-studded psychological thriller whose reputation preceded its release. I had high hopes for the film, but as the credits rolled, those hopes were replaced with questions.

“Don’t Worry Darling” follows Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles), a young married couple living in an idyllic 1950s Southern California suburb. They are part of the Victory Project, a community overseen by its mysterious founder Frank (Chris Pine), in which the men work while the women stay home, spending time shopping, cooking and cleaning. For a while, Alice seems content with her life of ballet classes and poolside gossiping with Bunny (Olivia Wilde, who also directs). Chaos descends as she starts to investigate strange happenings and the secrecy surrounding the Victory Project. 

Even before its release, “Don’t Worry Darling” was making headlines due to behind-scenes-drama. Leaked videos revealed tensions with the initial casting of Shia LaBeouf as Jack, and there is speculation that the budding relationship between Wilde and Styles interfered with filming. Pugh’s lack of press for the movie, especially at the Venice Film Festival, raised more questions about cast member dynamics. By the time the movie hit theaters, my curiosity had been sufficiently piqued.  

I couldn’t agree more with Wilde when she said, “Florence is a force.” Pugh gives this film her all and is brilliant on screen. She is the effervescent housewife one minute and a mad woman the next. I appreciated the nods to “The Yellow Wallpaper” and how Alice’s “hysteria” is constantly downplayed, and Pugh anchors the movie well. I particularly enjoyed her scenes with Wilde, which were filled with humor and tension. Styles plays Jack with handsome charm, but he was less effective during the more demanding scenes, and his angry face got some laughs from other moviegoers in the crowd. 

The cinematography in this movie is stunning. Wilde spends a significant amount of the film capturing the essence of the location and time period, with montages of palm tree-lined streets, lots of cigarettes and endless coffee-pouring. The hair and costumes are immaculate. Some of the film’s creepy visual motifs, like the black and white dancers and reflections in mirrors, create a very tense atmosphere. Additionally, the soundtrack really elevates the mood, and the repetition of the song “With You All the Time” is haunting. 

I was looking forward to seeing how some of the more frightening scenes in the trailer, like the wall suffocating Alice and the saran wrap around her head, fit into the movie. But I was let down because these scenes didn’t have much relevance to the plot. While they were interesting, spine-chilling ideas, they were disjointed. 

I can’t discuss “Don’t Worry Darling” without mentioning the polarizing ending, so skip this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers. While I enjoyed the chaotic, blood-stained “Black Mirror” twist, its execution fell flat. The premise here is fascinating (even if the storyline of men becoming radicalized online feels a little too real), but there was not enough time spent exploring the logistics of the program and simulation. I wish there were fewer bacon-and-egg montages, and more details about the program's creation or even some of Frank’s backstory. If anything, the ending left me with more questions than answers about the movie’s mystery. Instead, I’m turning to Tik Tok for elaborate theories, backstories and interpretations. 

Furthermore, I think the themes of “Don’t Worry Darling” aren’t as groundbreaking as the film believes they are. It’s very obvious throughout the beginning of the movie that there is a mystery surrounding the Victory Project, and Alice is getting suspicious, but the final product doesn’t follow through with the explanation. It gets too muddled in the details of the set-up and doesn’t give that same attention to the conclusion. Ultimately, the result feels weak and the ending comes off as a cop-out. 

TLDR: Do I think “Don’t Worry Darling” deserves a 39% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes? No,  I would give it a solid 65%. Watch “Don’t Worry Darling” for Pugh’s performance and its tense and stylish atmosphere, but don’t expect anything trailblazing.

Charlie Keohane

Charlie Keohane ’24 (she/her) is an Editor at Large. She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.   

She is an environmental writing major and a psychology minor from Northern California. Outside of academics, Charlie is a Senior Admissions Fellow at the Middlebury Admissions Office. She also is involved with the women’s track team and hosts Witching Hour, a radio show on 91.1 WRMC. In Spring 2023, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Greta Gerwig movies, polar plunging, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy.