Olivia Wilde’s suburban thriller Don’t Worry Darling tells a tense tale of dark secrets and deceit behind the veil of a shiny utopia. The film takes obvious inspiration from gaslighting narratives like The Truman Show and Rosemary’s Baby, but misunderstands some of the most fundamental components of those movies’ success.
But along the way, there’s such technical mastery on display, with such memorable imagery and such a rich, pulsating sense of atmosphere, that I feel obligated to give it a soft recommendation.
It’s the 1950s. Housewife Alice (Florence Pugh) lives contently in the secluded, idealized town of Victory where every day her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), works towards Victory’s grand agenda that remains a mystery to all the wives in this cultish community. All is well until Alice begins to notice the holes in Victory’s promises of “changing the world” as the very fabric of her reality starts to crumble.
It’s a fun premise, but the most glaring failure of Don’t Worry Darling is that it dedicates too much time to the portion of the story where Alice defends her sanity and struggles to expose the truth about Victory, and not enough time to establishing the bliss she was meant to experience in this place and the signs of impending wrongness that inform her decisions.
We reach a point nearing the end of the movie where Alice lists some of the weird falsities she’s noticed in town and, for whatever reason, she mentions inconsistencies that we never got to see her discover. We learn new information here. Why? It feels to me like a 20 or 30-minute chunk of the first act was lost to the cutting room floor that the movie is significantly weaker without.
Still, the visual appeal of this production is off the charts. This is the kind of movie that I would love to see just the storyboards for, because I’m sure they’re awesome. And the peerless Florence Pugh, as always, proves herself worthy of an emotionally-demanding role that carried much of my investment in Alice’s journey.
Is Don’t Worry Darling a case of style over substance? Maybe. But I, for one, am tired of pretending that’s such a crime.