The Stream: The movie stalls in the middle and spins its wheels waiting to reveal its mystery.
The Big Screen: The look of the film from the production design to the costumes is top notch.
The Final Bill: An interesting and well-designed mystery/thriller that doesn’t have enough intrigue to fill its 2-hour runtime.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Olivia Wilde
Writers: Katie Silberman story by Carey Van Dyke & Shane Van Dyke
Stars: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, KiKi Layne, Gemma Chan and Nick Kroll
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: R for sexuality, violent content and language
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Production Companies: New Line Cinema, New Line Productions, Vertigo Entertainment, Warner Bros.
Platform: In theaters September 23, 2022
Notable Trailers: Armageddon Time, Knock at the Cabin, Shazam! Fury of the Gods
What’s up, Streamers!?! Have you ever wanted to see a movie about conformity and living the ideal life in an idyllic setting? Oh, you’ve seen that one already? It’s always a nightmare or some metaphor for oppression? Oh, okay. Well, what if you cast Harry Styles as a lead in it? That’s enticing? I knew it would be! Don’t Worry Darling, which stars Mr. Watermelon Sugar, himself, was released this weekend. Its previews make it look like a Stepford Wives reboot with a tech-y edge. I made the trek to the theater to immerse myself in all the beauty and the intrigue. Here’s how that journey went.
Don’t Worry Darling is the second feature file from actor-turned-director, Olivia Wilde. The film follows Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles), a happy young couple, who are passionate with each other and popular with their neighbors and colleagues in this isolated 50’s suburb. There are some strange things occurring on the periphery, but all of the men in the town work for a company that established the town called Victory. There are characters swirling around the central couple like the mysterious founder of the company, Frank (Chris Pine), and his ice-queen wife (Gemma Chan); and there’s Alice’s best friend and neighbor, Bunny (Olivia Wilde) and her husband (Nick Kroll). Alice begins to notice the oddities in the town and her mental health begins to deteriorate. Psychological thriller hijinks ensue.
It sounds complicated, but the foundation of Don’t Worry Darling is very familiar. Knowing that this movie is supposed to be a mystery/psychological thriller, the audience like Alice is trained to look for clues and figure out the trick of the movie. The best psychological thrillers have good sleight of hand and really engross the audience in its world. Don’t Worry Darling isn’t as successful in that. It immerses you in the setting, which looks beautiful and believable. It’s artificial in a way that feels like it evokes the time period and makes you just slightly uneasy. All of the aesthetic touches of the movie are good
Also, the cast is generally good. I’ll especially point out that Florence Pugh does a great job. She is sexy and fun when the movie is establishing Jack and Alice as a happy couple. Pugh lets her character evolve in her seeming madness and becomes strong-willed and defiant. A lot of the movie wouldn’t work without such a strong performance from Pugh. Harry Styles is good enough. He makes an impression and fills the role of Jack admirably. (Side note: I can’t see Shia LaBeouf playing that role). Lastly, Chris Pine is mysterious and menacing. I like seeing him in that mode. He a formidable foil to Florence Pugh. Their scenes are highly charged.
The real problem with Don’t Worry Darling is that the runtime of the movie is wasted. Sure, there has to be world building, but at a certain point, the film keeps hitting the same beats over and over again without advancing the plot. It gets a bit dull in the middle and without Florence Pugh and some nice things to look at you could check out and return for the reveal in the last 15 minutes. Either the movie should be shorter or there should be more hints about what’s going on with Alice earlier and that could be more fully explored. There are interesting themes touched on; but, ultimately, they are glossed over, which is a shame.
Yeah, Don’t Worry Darling has an interesting premise and sets up an intriguing world. The style of the movie including the sets and costumes really draws you in. The actors do good work, especially Florence Pugh and Chris Pine; but they are underserved by the unfocused storyline. The movie gets a little dull in the middle as you wait for some answers to be revealed. I’d say this is a matinee movie at best, so get a bowl of popcorn if you’re heading to the theater.