In Don’t Worry Darling, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) Chambers are lucky to be living in Victory. It’s an experimental company community located in the middle of a desert. The men who work for the top-secret Victory Project leave their wives at the same time every day, driving their classic cars out into the desert to headquarters. Life is perfect, with every resident’s needs met by the company. All they ask in return is discretion and an unwavering commitment to the Victory cause. But when Alice notices cracks in their idyllic life, she begins to experience hallucinations. And then, she starts to question the Victory project.
Our first impression of Alice and Jack is that they seem to be a newly married couple. And yes, there are all the sex scenes that you’d expect from two of the hottest people in pop culture today. Their neighbor Bunny (played by the film’s director, Olivia Wilde) is a bit nosy and mischievous. She notes that she hears what goes on in their home. We get a glimpse of Alice’s daily routine: she cooks breakfast, sees her husband off to work, cleans the bed, vacuums the floor, scrubs the tub, does some shopping and socializing, then goes back home to make dinner and greet Jack at the door with a drink ready for him in hand. Jack and the other men develop “progressive materials” for the Victory project, but it is never revealed what that actually means.
As the community goes to a party hosted by Victory founder Frank (Chris Pine), we discover that one of the wives, Margaret (Kiki Layne), has discovered something is wrong with Victory. In her first scene, the actress horribly delivered her lines during a crucial moment in calling out the founder. It was nearly comical, but it was more cringe. Why Wilde allowed that scene in the final cut is a bit of a mystery. (Layne’s scenes were mostly cut from the film, according to reports.) Following that, during Frank’s recovery speech, music begins to swell at awkward points. I’m not sure if that was intentional to keep things eerie, but it felt really awkward, especially following Layne’s performance.
The film has a lot of themes that resonate today. There are women being gaslighted by men (such as when Alice sees an airplane crash and a man denies that it happened). Then, there’s the toxic masculinity that Alice dealt with at the hands of her husband. And, notably, her husband gets a lot of those toxic ideas from some sources that have echoes of many of today’s online male influencers. The difference in the responsibilities of men and women also feels a bit “Gilead” from The Handmaid’s Tale (another bit of “fiction” that resonates a bit too much these days).
Don’t Worry Darling was like a combination of Stepford Wives and Wandavision as far as how the community is. It also recalls Shutter Island in the way that Alice experiences fever dream visions that don’t make sense. The writing could have been better in parts; some of the lines don’t make sense in the context of the film. All in all, Don’t Worry Darling doesn’t deserve to be criticized so harshly online. And yes, Harry Styles’ first starring role was quite impressive. Florence Pugh also delivered an amazing performance, while Nick Kroll, Kate Berlant and Asif Ali’s characters were hilarious. Ultimately, the rumors and gossip around the film might resonate for longer than the film itself does. But still, Don’t Worry Darling is worth your time.
Don’t Worry Darling is now playing in theaters. I watched the film in Dobly, which was quite loud at times, particularly during the previews. During the film it was fine, but it did really change the experience much, although certain sound effects were definitely enhanced.