Written by Weng Leong Chu
Raunchy little misbecomings of fourth-wave feminism are beset in a world of questions and thrills that leave viewers hooked in and horned up. Don’t Worry Darling is Olivia Wilde’s newest and juiciest movie both on and off the screen.
Set in a 1950s company town called Victory Town, the movie shows a happy couple Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) going about their daily lives: Jack goes to work while Alice cleans the house, makes the bed and cooks the meals. Their neighbours also have similar lifestyles, and the wives sometimes go over to each other’s houses to gossip, practise ballet and go shopping.
The two things they’re not allowed to do are: venture outside of town, and enquire about their husbands’ jobs. A series of weird events suddenly starts happening in the neighbourhood, which leads Alice to: venture outside of town, and enquire about her husband’s job.
From there, we are led on a thrilling adventure full of twists and turns (and sex) to figure out the mystery of Victory Town.
I think people will really enjoy this movie, for the wrong reasons. Were the sex scenes eye-grabbing? Yes. Did they add value to the movie in any artistic or emotional way? No. But is Harry Styles hot? Yes, very.
Styles does a good enough job for a non-professional actor and plays the role of the goody-two-shoes husband perfectly – and impressively makes filling the shoes of Shia LaBeouf (who left the production for unknown reasons) look like an easy job. Meanwhile, his on-screen lover is stellar – this subpar story did not stop Florence Pugh from putting up the performance of a lifetime. There are moments in the movie where the audience feels removed from the story, but the one constant is that Alice lives through Florence Pugh for the whole two hours. The praise she is getting for carrying this movie on her back is absolutely valid.
Chris Pine is also perfect as Victory’s inspiring CEO, Frank. Viewers can expect a challenge to solve the mystery of Victory Town as Pine goes around with an air of confidence that neither Alice nor the audience will be able to do so. Nick Kroll plays Dean, a side character that makes so much impact with the few lines he is given that I think this man is my Harry Styles. Dean is, on the surface, also another goody-two-shoes husband but the actor switches up so quickly to be your toxic secret-corporate-ladder-climbing colleague that it’s super entertaining and fun to watch.
What would have been better was for the story to push the characters further into tensions: maybe goody-two-shoes Harry Styles can become a slightly crazier Harry Styles (so that the teenagers in the cinema will stop squealing every time he appears on screen). Maybe the ending could have been better mapped out so that people leave the cinema intrigued rather than confused.
Despite its flaws, Don’t Worry Darling has rushed women and Gen Zs to the cinema in North America, thanks to Harry Styles’ ‘Star Power’. Critics are confused as to whether this should be termed as something bold and empowering from Olivia Wilde or whether the script itself should be put back into the recycling bin for unwanted Black Mirror story ideas. At least I was genuinely entertained by the movie. This is definitely not the finest piece of art cinema has to offer but it can entertain you for that two hours or so.
This review is published as part of *SCAPE’s Film Critics Lab: A Writing Mentorship Programme organised by The Filmic Eye, with support from the Singapore Film Society and Sinema.
About the Author: Weng Leong prides himself in having watched Parasite before it won Best Picture in 2020 and will gladly mansplain to anyone why Memories of Murder is Bong Joon-Ho’s best film. He is most often seen talking about film and politics instead of actually studying at SMU.
About the Movie:
Directed by: Olivia Wilde
Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, KiKi Layne, Gemma Chan
Duration: 2h 3min
A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets.