“Don’t Worry Darling” falls short of high expectations



The motif of the red plane, much like other symbols in the movie, proved to be predictable in its meaning.

The audience held their breath. People waited in silence for the dialogue to begin, for the characters to speak. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the screen as Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) sat across from each other in tense silence. However, when Jack finally yelled, the audience erupted with laughter.

“Don’t Worry Darling” had great potential to give a new take on classic dystopia, but it fell short of my expectations. The movie follows Alice, a stay at home wife, and Jack, a technical engineer for an “The Victory Project,” and their descent into madness in a 1950s dystopia. Specifically, the movie focuses on Alice’s journey to discover the dark secrets of their seemingly perfect town. The cast were committed to their roles, and Pugh especially, was exceptional, but her performance alone wasn’t enough to save a movie that felt cliche and formulaic.

No one could take Jack, rather, Styles, seriously. Styles’ screaming was muffled by the cacophony of laughter coming from the audience. Everytime he burst out with anger there was an outburst of chuckles. I couldn’t take this movie as seriously as I wanted to. I couldn’t immerse myself in the story. Everything felt too heavy handed and I knew where most of the plot was going.

The main aspect of the movie that bothered me was the plot structure. However, this is not the fault of director Olivia Wilde or the actors. In the film industry, there seems to be only one type of psychological dystopia: a character in a picturesque world finds a small flaw that snowballs into them realizing the web of lies they’re entangled in. Notable examples include George Orwell’s 1984 and the movie Midsommar in which Pugh stars in its titular role.

In an age where dozens of blockbuster movies are made in a year, it can be hard for writers to break out of molds like these. Still, after seeing “Don’t Worry Darling,” I feel let down. I wish they could have been more creative and presented this established concept in a new and insidious light. The rollercoaster had no thrill because I knew its path.

The plot was not my only frustration with this movie. Its obvious themes and metaphors detracted from the movie’s substance. Themes can make or break a movie. While a plot may be unoriginal or cliche, unique themes can give the story a whole new dimension. “Don’t Worry Darling’s” substance is lost in its overt themes. There were moments in the movie that felt like they were handing the audience the meaning on a silver platter. The character of Margaret, who acts as a foil to Alice, is ostracized for asking the wrong questions. This trope of the gaslit scapegoat is seen across genres, so Margaret seemed nothing more than a vehicle to move the plot forward.

It was only through re-examining the film that I became more intrigued. I think a more subtle theme is toxic masculinity and its effects on Jack in particular. In one scene where the leader of Victory, Frank, comes to Jack and Alice’s for dinner, Jack is silently angry at Alice for taking his place at the head of the table. On the other hand, the movie’s more cookie-cutter elements strangely added to the unique aspects of the storyline, and the writers seemed to be aware of this. These more cliched ideas made for the more original plot twists to stand out. While they did not save the movie, they certainly improved the otherwise average viewing experience.

Finally comes the question on everyone’s mind: did Harry Styles succeed in acting? I think he did all that he could. With a celebrity who has an image, lore and popularity like Styles, diverting from this public persona is a bit of a challenge. A musician like Styles could either succeed and show the breadth and depth of his talents, or flounder and remain in the box that he’d been placed in. Styles, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. While I could see his effort in his acting, I could not take him seriously and neither could anyone else in the theater. I couldn’t separate the artist from his art. I didn’t see Jack; I saw Harry Styles.

Even though the substance of the movie lacked, I still feel that every actor was invested. Florence Pugh, as usual, carried the film. I could not look away from her visceral and tangible emotions. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by Olivia Wilde, both as director and actor. Her character, Bunny, was the most complex character after Pugh’s character Alice.

The most successful features of the movie were the soundtrack and cinematography. Wilde did a thorough job combining sound and film to create a truly eerie atmosphere at times, and it felt like every shot was intentional. Wilde tried her best and her effort was conveyed, but it was the predictable writing that overshadowed her work.

Overall, “Don’t Worry Darling” is an average movie with an average plot line. By taking it too seriously, you might even lose the enjoyment of seeing many of Hollywood’s favorites all on one screen. Because of the overdone storyline and overt themes, this movie only needs to be seen once. My favorite part of the experience was not the film itself but dissecting it with my friends. So, go for the actors, stay for the post-film conversations.