Don’t Worry Darling is the next directorial effort from actress turned director Olivia Wilde, and has a screenplay written by Katie Silberman, both who previously teamed up for Booksmart (2019). I actually really liked Booksmart, it was a way better film than I expected it to be, considering that the trailer made it look like Superbad for girls- I think that that film was done in by its marketing and is a much cleverer film than it was made out to be.
Don’t Worry Darling is a film that has made a lot of headlines before it’s release, mainly surrounding two aspects: the director Olivia Wilde’s very public separation from Jason Sudeikis, as well as the firing/resignation (depending on who you believe) of original lead Shia LeBeouf to be replaced by Harry Styles. There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding how Styles landed the role.. Olivia Wilde insisted on a public statement that she fired Shia LaBeouf, which he denies and states that he resigned instead. The film has also had a disastrous marketing push- Florence Pugh, who plays the lead character in this film, has done practically no marketing for this film- the only appearance I could find was at the premiere.
There is of course a plot twist down the line, which you may have guessed from the trailers, so it’s hard to discuss the whole film.
The film is set in a sort of idealised version of the 1950’s, or perhaps a ‘Californiacated’ version of it. You have a seemingly utopian community that is led by a sort of radio host/CEO/cult leader, Frank (Chris Pine) and all of the men in the community go out to work with him making “progressive materials”. The main story surrounds Alice (Florence Pugh) and her husband, Jack (Harry Styles) who are living together in the community. After Alice’s friend Margaret (Kiki Layne) attempts suicide following a mental breakdown, she begins to start peeling back layers of the community and realises that there is something very wrong going on.
First off, if you have some very young One Direction fans begging you to go see this film because of Harry Styles, this is not the film to take them to! This film has an R rating in America and a 15 in the UK for a very good reason. There’s not a lot of gore or nudity, but one of the early scenes does involve a quite graphic depiction of oral sex.
I think that the film itself is meant to be a very pointed take on incel culture, it’s definitely very aggressively pointed at people who think that the 1950’s were some sort of utopia of everyone getting along.. Though obviously, you know from the start that something is up. The community is quite creepy, for example the women take regular ballet classes as a sort of conformity training, which is run by Frank’s wife, Shelly (Gemma Chan) who turns in a very good creepy performance in this film. There’s lots of imagery to do with eyes and irises.. Everything feels weird throughout the film.
There’s some decent ideas here, the problem is that the film isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. Put it this way, when we get to the plot twist (the main one that the film hangs on) my attitude wasn’t “Oh, that’s happening?” it was “Oh, I got it right.”.
The problem is that the film borrows quite a bit from other movies that make the twist feel a lot more predictable, which is a shame because it’s not a bad twist- it doesn’t contradict what we’ve seen beforehand, but it does raise a few questions by the time you’re done with it. It also kind of feels anticlimactic to an extent.
It does lead me to believe that the twist was one of the big reasons why Shia LaBeouf was cast in the lead role originally. Nothing against Harry Styles, he delivers an okay performance (nothing as bad as some people have made it out to be), but there’s a few things that are a bit off. You can tell that he’s not quite ready for a leading role at this point in time. For one thing, there’s a lot of points where I felt like he was attempting an American accent but that it got dropped part way through the production, which was a smart decision if true. There’s a lot of material that he seems to be struggling with. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt considering that he’s been asked to do a very hard task and he doesn’t quite have the tools to do it at this point in time.
Florence Pugh, however, is the best part of this movie and nails the centre performance. She, unlike Styles, is an American in this film and does the accent well. Again, she nails every scene she is in, and gives an absolutely fabulous performance.
I also quite liked Chris Pine’s performance. He definitely struggles to move out of his persona at times but he can deliver a good creepy performance. Apparently his character is based on some incel icons, though according to Olivia Wilde her main inspiration was the controversial professor Jordan Peterson. While I definitely saw a bit of him, he feels like a more controlled version of Alex Jones or Donald Trump to me- selling the idea of a utopia that doesn’t actually exist and trying to bring you back to a time period that you can’t truly go back to because the world has moved on. Although he definitely has Peterson’s intellectual sense of entitlement.
If there is one thing that I can say is really brilliant about this film, it is the set design, the costumes, and the production in general. This is a great looking film. I really think that it should be nominated in several technical categories at the Oscars because it does a fantastic job on everything from set design to even the sound effects and design.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the soundtrack, however. It’s trying to do something quite creepy but it feels like it’s borrowing from other films and not quite having the same effect. I thought that it had a very similar soundtrack to Get Out.
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