Don’t Worry Darling: Wilde Styles Signifying Nothing
Radicalized online toxic masculinity, desperate for acceptance to the point of ignoring massive warning signs, and normalized gender roles and the way they’re magnified and codified in an authoritarian space. Themes and ideas that Olivia Wilde’s newest film, Don’t Worry Darling, seem moderately interested in playing with for about 20 minutes, then all but abandon’s them afterward.
The film, the product of much hullabaloo over the past few months, has gone from a simple September filler film with some awards rumbling to the most talked about movie coming out of the Venice and Toronto Film festivals. I won’t go into all the sordid details here, but it would put some reality show plots to shame.
At the start, Don’t Worry Darling’s leads Florence Pugh (Alice) and Harry Styles (Jack) are living the lap of luxury, hamming it up Mad Men style, doing what successful 30-year-olds in the ’50s did; balanced alcoholic drinks on their heads to see who could last the longest. Boomers were the best, weren’t they?
I hope you were satiated with that trickle of lightheartedness because, for the rest of the film’s 100-minute runtime, we’re subjected to some of the most placid, uninteresting, and cliched depictions of female lunacy ever put to film. Over and over again, Alice experiences things she can’t explain and, surprise surprise, NO ONE BELIEVES HER.
The way in which the hallucinations are explained is in no way satisfying, neither for the viewer nor for Alice herself. When a mystery is unfolded, the contrivance for said mystery must be delivered in some way to allow for the audience to either figure out the solution along with or before the protagonist. The script for Don’t Worry Darling, penned by Katie Silberman, does neither.
The one saving grace of the film is, of course, Florence Pugh. Channeling her character Dani from Midsommer, Pugh’s performance is appropriately measured, contemplative, and, when the scene calls for it, equally intimidating, controlling, and powerful.
Much has been made of Harry Styles’ performance in this film and his scattered American accent. Both are serviceable, but the application of the American accent is confounding. A doctor makes a comment to Harry’s character, saying ‘Don’t you Brits have a saying, keep calm and carry on?’ If he is indeed playing a character with a British accent, then why is he trying to mask it?
Ultimately, Don’t Worry Darling will most likely be remembered as ‘that movie from 2022 with all the drama’. But unfortunately, almost none of it was on the screen.