DON'T WORRY DARLING (2022) l Warner Bros. | Sept 23, 2022 | 123 Mins.
Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine
Director: Olivia Wilde
A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets.
REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
Don’t Worry Darling is one of the most mesmerizing films of the year thanks to the magnificent Florence Pugh and a truly engaging and thrilling plot.
For her second directorial effort, Olivia Wilde brings a truly ambitious story to the big screen that even a seasoned director would struggle with, but Wilde knocks it out of the park like a professional, proving herself to be one of the most exciting and daring new directors. This film has been making headlines the past few weeks due to the bombshell of a press tour, gaining the film lots of negative attention and affecting audiences’ perception of the film, which is too bad because it truly is an exceptional film. The film is centered around Florence Pugh’s Alice, a 1950s housewife living at an experimental neighbourhood run by the company her husband works for. However, everything is not as perfect as it seems as Alice begins to suspect that the company is hiding a dark secret about the true intentions of this neighbourhood.
As shown in the trailers, the film is a thriller as Alice begins to uncover the true nature of her life, while having some truly shocking encounters. The story shares many similarities with other great thrillers and science fiction films, which makes the trajectory of the plot somewhat predictable, but the true nature of the reveal in the third act is still a surprise. Getting to the reveal is a wild ride, that with Wilde’s direction, is a tension filled experience that will have you on the edge of your seat. And once the reveal occurs, the film has an exciting conclusion that delivers everything you want from a big blockbuster. The screenplay does slightly stumble in the final ten minutes as it quickly throws in one last twist and doesn’t have enough time to fully explore said twist, but I love the way the film ends the story. It's a bold point to end the story at, that will have audiences pondering what they have just witnessed and debating it as they walk out of the cinema.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the film are the performances. Pugh is a force to be reckoned with as Alice, once again proving why she is one of the best actresses currently working today. Capturing every emotion that Alice goes through, drawing the audience into the nightmare that Alice realizes she is living in, there is not a moment where Pugh does not light up the screen. She balances playfulness and charm to build the basis of her character, while emphasizing the psychological horrors she undergoes as she begins to discover what is actually happening in her community. Opposite Pugh is Harry Styles as her on screen husband Jack, and while Styles’s acting abilities have been attacked recently in the media, I thought he was very good. Having seen him both in this film and My Policeman, I can say that his performance in Don’t Worry Darling is the stronger of his two performances this year. And it has to do with his co-stars. He is sharing the screen with Pugh, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan and Olivia Wilde, who are all outstanding, and he plays off their energy and rises to the occasion. The passion that he and Pugh share on screen is wonderful, while he captures exactly what is required of him by the script.
Pine stars as the leader of Victory, Frank, and he is a scene stealer. While he has only a handful of scenes, with every moment on screen Pine weaponizes his natural charisma to create a brilliant yet terrifying leader. It’s reminiscent of a cult leader, which leads to some wonderful moments between him and Pugh as they verbally joust as their two characters fight for control. As each character in the film is part of a couple, the film required a great actress to portray Pine’s wife, and they could not have picked anyone better than Chan. Chan possesses a natural beauty and intelligence that makes her the perfect match for Pine, but it's the way that she subtly and quietly manipulates a scene and situation that makes her just as terrifying as Pine. Wilde herself is great in the role of Bunnie, Alice’s best friend, bringing a great amount of humour and sass to the film to lighten some moments, while clashing with Pugh during some of the more intense moments of the film. And her partner is Nick Kroll, and the two of them are just a ton of fun when they get to share the screen together.
Visually, the film is marvelous. The production design captures the glamour of the 1950s in every set and the costumes are stunning! Whether it be the old cars, the gorgeous dresses, or the old style suits, every detail is expertly crafted. It’s all masterfully captured by Matthew Libatique’s cinematography which romanticizes the glossy appeal of the 1950s, while injecting a sinister undertone to each shot. Aiding in the world creation is some great sound design to build up the paranoia that Alice experiences over the course of the film, and John Powell’s musical score echoes this chilling soundscape for the film. To complement the tension building sounds is a truly fun soundtrack of all the pop hits of the 1950s, that audiences will instantly recognize, which will have you tapping your foot for the first act before the terror of the story begins to set in.
It’s a daring story to bring to the big screen in an age dominated by superheroes and franchise films, but Wilde once again directs the hell out of the film and creates a truly dazzling film. I have no doubt in my mind that audiences are going to love the film once they see it this weekend, because it is a thrilling ride from start to finish that keeps you on the edge of your seat, delivering one of the most exciting theatrical experiences of the year so far. Florence Pugh stuns with yet another phenomenal performance while leading an all star cast and Olivia Wilde directs one of the most exciting films of the year that is a technical and visual wonder, making Don’t Worry Darling a must see cinematic experience!
RATING: 4 out of 5