- Run time: 2 Hours 2 Minutes
- Studio: New Line Cinema
- Director: Olivia Wilde
- Where to Watch: In Theaters
Alice Chambers lives a quiet life with her dashing husband, Jack Chambers. Together they reside in the company town provided for them by Jack’s job at Victory. Alice wakes up everyday and prepares Jack to go out to work in the top secret facility on the edge of town. Only employees are allowed out of a certain range of the neighborhood and that is just fine with everybody in Victory. That is, almost everybody is fine with it until a woman named Margaret returns from a walk in the desert without her son and begins to act strangely. Unable to cope with whatever she saw in the desert, Margaret attempts suicide and Alice witnesses the event. As she runs to help her friend, Alice is obstructed by Victory employees in red jumpsuits and is knocked out. Jack brushes Margaret’s suicide attempt and insists that Alice just saw something she didn’t understand. But Alice refuses to let this go and begins to dig deeper into what is really going on at Victory.
Director Olivia Wilde has stated that her sophomore picture is inspired by Inception, The Matrix, and a little bit of The Truman Show. It is a multi-layered movie with hyper stylization made to serve the narrative. Once the full weight of the story is revealed to the audience at the end of the 2 hour run time, the elements of each of those inspirations becomes incredibly obvious. Wilde borrows the “is it real or is it a dream” question from Inception. The high technology infusion into the characters is a direct lift from The Matrix. And The Truman Show makes its influence known in the reveal of the twist ending. As a side note, I saw this movie with one of my best friends and we both instantly recognized a lot of similarity to the Tranquility Lane mission of Fallout 3. If you’ve played it, you know what we mean. Anyway, to take such an assortment of inspirations and ideas and mix them together into a story even half as compelling as this is a monumental effort. I applaud Wilde for her skill as a film maker. Don’t Worry Darling boasts a fabulous mid-century modern aesthetic that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy for about the first 30-40 minutes of the picture. Check out this article from Vulture about the filming locations if you like mid-century stuff as much as I do. Anyway, taking this story and putting it into any other design would have been a much harder sell. Wilde’s set and character designs coupled with the above average dialogue of the movie made for an incredibly immersive experience.
While the visuals and feeling of the world in Don’t Worry Darling are top notch, the story isn’t quite as impressive. It leaves a lot of gaps for the audience to fill in and feels a little rushed towards the end. It’s kind of like a write your own horror story and the writers didn’t quite finish. Some would call that clever for not giving away or explaining everything that makes this world run so the audience could create their own narrative. The fear of the unknown and all that, right? I would call it lazy after the second or third application of that mentality. The barebones explanation of the twist at the end of the movie does satisfy the audience curiosity, but only to the absolute minimum. A little more time spent building the world that lead to the twist would have gone a long way for me. I wouldn’t have minded another 15 -20 minutes on this run time to expand that out a bit. Even though the ending doesn’t quite land, the initial 90 minutes or so does a great job building tension and the cast is a huge part of that.
Florence Pugh stars as Alice Chambers, the lead character who is married to Jack Chambers, portrayed by Harry Styles. Both are incredibly popular names due to their past performances or off screen talents. Pugh has starred in several career defining movies like Midsommar and is slated to take the reigns in future MCU movies. Everybody should know who Harry Styles is, even if you live under a rock like me. He’s a famous singer, song-writer, stupid handsome, blah blah blah. Pugh is a machine, nothing seems to phase her in this movie aside from being so gaslit I thought she might explode. She does explode eventually, and it’s incredibly satisfying and painful at the same time. Styles is by far the weakest member of this cast, and I think he’s probably there to help put butts in seats. That was certainly the case in my theater when I was forced to list to a horde of teenage girls laugh at his on screen presence. Granted his performances were kind of rough, but not laughably bad. Together, they make for an idealistic couple, one that harkens back to the age of home cooked meals, big cars, nuclear families, and forced stereotypical gender roles.
Supporting Pugh and Styles was the duo of Chris Pine and Olivia Wilde. Pine played the villain of the picture and the leader of Victory, an incredibly cruel and evil man named Frank. Pine’s presence as a man who knows everything and is clearly in control is palpable. There are a few scenes with Pugh and Pine together that make it clear that he thinks he is in complete control and Pugh is suffocated by it. At one point, he dares her to try and test him because he’s so sure of himself. Pine doesn’t dominate the scenes with Pugh, but he does command the attention of the cast when he is speaking. While not necessarily a villain outright, Olivia Wilde’s character (Bunny) is almost as bad as Frank. Without giving away too much of the ending, Wilde makes herself into a scared and weak character, but not one worth redeeming because she plays along with Frank’s game. She’s a better director than actress in this particular movie.
Don’t Worry Darling is a great looking movie with an above average story. The sizable twist at the end of the picture creates a mostly satisfying conclusion, even if it is a little derivative of more popular properties. The insane amount of drama surrounding this movie is off the charts stupid. That’s going to be the reason why a lot of people go and see this movie or decide to skip it. But whether you choose to see it out of curiosity or genuine interest in a flashy new thriller, you will most likely be entertained – just don’t expect greatness comparable to the likes of the inspired source material.