Directed by: Olivia Wilde
Premise: A housewife (Florence Pugh) lives an apparently idealistic domestic life in a utopian 1950s suburban community until she suspects that the comfort and affluence bely a sinister secret.
What Works: Don’t Worry Darling is a paranoia thriller putting it in the company of films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Rosemary’s Baby and The Manchurian Candidate. That genre experienced its height in the 1950s and 60s, largely due to the fear of communism, and Don’t Worry Darling is deliberately set in a 1950s-styled community. However, the filmmakers connect that time period with the contemporary era and doing so makes provocative parallels. Don’t Worry Darling is about the American Dream and how consumption and affluence are key parts of that ideal as are very specific gender roles. The film visualizes how the idealization of the 1950s is tied to the repression of women. Don’t Worry Darling focuses on Alice, played by Florence Pugh, a housewife who lives in apparent domestic bliss right out of Leave It To Beaver. Alice gradually sees through the mendacity of her surroundings. Pugh is quite good conveying Alice’s growing paranoia which could be genuine or a delusion. Chris Pine is notable in the role of a guru; Pine has the charm that makes his social status believable and he possesses an understated menace. Don’t Worry Darling also features impressive cinematography and production design. The filmmakers conjure a quasi-1950s style but one that looks like a cartoonish parody. The film also possesses a sensual visual style that makes everything very tactile and creates a vivid sense claustrophobia.
What Doesn’t: Don’t Worry Darling suffers from slow pacing. The film starts off well enough but the narrative doesn’t pick up as the story proceeds. There’s little sense of escalation until the very end. Without giving too much away, Don’t Worry Darling has a big reveal about two-thirds of the way through and it’s a letdown. It changes what we understood about the story world in a way that cheapens the drama we’ve invested in and the reveal is dramatically and conceptually uninteresting. That’s part of a larger flaw of Don’t Worry Darling. Its world building is shoddy and incomplete. There are a number of details and plot points that don’t make sense or are dropped, namely an airplane that appears to crash outside of town. Other aspects of Don’t Worry Darling’s story world come across incomplete and borrowed from other movies as a way to quickly solve the problem and wrap up a movie that has overstayed its welcome.
Bottom Line: Don’t Worry Darling is a mixed effort. It has impressive production design, Florence Pugh commits to her role, and the film has some provocative and relevant social commentary. But the narrative is saggy and the world building is cliché and incomplete.
Episode: #920 (October 2, 2022)