If you weren't already aware, I have a massive crush on both Florence Pugh and Gemma Chan (among several other celebrities, obviously). So when I saw they were both members of the cast of Don't Worry Darling, I immediately added it to my watch list. My original intent was to watch the film in theatres, but the drama surrounding it and the fact that I am terrible at making plans when it comes to doing anything without my daughter in tow meant I didn't do that.
The movie follows Alice (Florence Pugh) who is a 1950's-style housewife living in an idyllic neighborhood with her husband Jack (Harry Styles). Alice spends her day cleaning, relaxing, and preparing to cook dinner while Jack works at the Victory Project, a company with its own community for all their employees and their families to live. Their life seems perfect until a strange encounter at a house party thrown by Victory Project founder Frank (Chris Pine) and his wife Shelley (Gemma Chan) has Alice start questioning their life in Victory. Tension builds as Alice starts uncovering the mystery and realizing things are not what they seem.
Going into this movie, I really had no clear idea of what to expect. All I knew was that it was a psychological thriller, which in my mind was the complete antithesis of the picture perfect 50's housewife vibes of the female characters. I was completely enthralled and confused the entire time and I kind of loved that. Florence's acting performance throughout was, as expected, absolutely spectacular. She throws herself 100% into all her acting roles and it is truly only a matter of time before she wins an Academy Award.
Harry Styles was a surprise to me. Before this role, I had only ever seen him in (spoiler alert for a Phase 4 Marvel movie) his brief appearance in a post-credit scene in Eternals so I wasn't really sure what his acting would be like. There were some moments where it fell a little flat, but I was overall very impressed with his performance. One specific moment in the car stands out to me and really made me look forward to what else is to come from him as an actor.
Every member of this cast put their best foot forward. I'm not a big film buff and I don't critically analyze films like...ever...but I really felt like all the acting in this film was top notch. No one phoned it in. I saw a side of Chris Pine and Gemma Chan that I don't believe I've ever seen before and it was a pleasant (if slightly disconcerting?) surprise. The cinematography was beautiful, with sweeping landscapes that were reminiscent of the films of Chloe Zhao.
(spoilers ahead, proceed with caution)
While I had a good time overall with this film, it's dampened a bit by some comments made by director Olivia Wilde. When speaking about the movie, she said that she wanted to put female pleasure at the forefront in a way that is not really seen in the media outside of queer films. And she does this to a certain point. There are a couple of scenes where it is clear that Alice's pleasure is the main focus - we never see Jack even come close. On the surface, this seems like a win. But once you hit that plot twist, that image starts to crack and shatter. In a world where Alice doesn't have any agency and is being held against her will (albeit unknowingly), how can we really believe this is a step forward for women and female pleasure? There is no pleasure to be had when there is no bodily autonomy.
I enjoyed this film, but I definitely would not say it was one of my favorites of all time. The performances and cinematography were the strongest parts of this film while the story as a whole left me a bit disappointed. Go in with an open mind and give it a chance, but don't expect to come away feeling changed in any way.
Don't Worry Darling is the second film for director Olivia Wilde who also stars alongside Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, and Nick Kroll. It is available to stream now on HBO Max and hits shelves on November 29, 2022.