‘Don’t Worry Darling’ somehow turns out to be an entertaining film despite pre-premiere drama

Written By Kylie Thomas, Co-Features/A&E Editor

3.5/5 Globes

This past weekend on September 23, one of the most anticipated movies of the year, “Don’t Worry Darling” opened in theaters across the world. Part of the reason the movie was so anticipated is due to its casting of pop-star Harry Styles and actress Florence Pugh. Though the other part is because of the negative energy that seems to follow the film and its cast.

If you haven’t heard about any drama circling the new thriller/drama “Don’t Worry Darling” then you probably haven’t been on social media in the past month. 

Ever since the news was released that Styles would be starring in the movie directed by his girlfriend Olivia Wilde, the internet has been up in arms about how this movie would perform. Then after more extended trailers were released, discourse focused on Style’s lack of acting skills featured in the trailers. 

This discourse only extended as more drama stirred as the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 5. From this event, many rumors commenced about the relationship between Wilde and Pugh as well as the relationship between Styles and supporting actor Chris Pine. Leading to a whole scandal in which the internet attempted to determine if Styles spit onto Pine after a poorly timed video appeared of the two during the premiere. 

So after all this dramatization of the behind the scenes the question on everyone’s mind is; is the movie any good?

A simple answer? Yes. A more complex answer? It depends on what you’re going into the movie thinking about. 

The basis for the movie is that a housewife, Alice (Florence Pugh), living in a 1950s near perfect suburbia, starts to find odd mysteries within the town she lives in. Specifically, she takes a special interest in the town’s work project titled The Victory Project, headed by town leader Frank (Chris Pine) who her husband Jack (Harry Styles) works for. The work is kept secret from the wives in the town and they’re even told not to go into the desert that extends entirely around the suburbs. 

Sound familiar? That’s because the plot of the movie is very similar to the book “The Stepford Wives” by Ira Levin and its movie adaptations. 

When I say it’s very similar, I literally mean down to the characters’ personalities. For instance, Bunny (Olivia Wilde), Alice’s best friend, is a parallel to Bobbie in “The Stepford Wives.” She has rambunctious kids, a confident attitude, and an interesting relationship with her husband. 

Now there are a number of differences between the two pieces of media but there’s no denying that “The Stepford Wives” has an influence here. As a big fan of “The Stepford Wives” I was excited to see where the film went with the concept and that may be why I enjoyed it more than most critics who mostly complain about the execution of the film on Styles and Wilde’s parts. 

The film does a good job of setting up the environment in which the people live. Right away the audience gets an idea of how the suburb runs by seeing a day in the life of the couples who live there. There’s the basics you’d expect; the wife makes breakfast, sends her husband off to work, and then waits for him to come home by preparing dinner. But then there are some things that allow the uneasiness to set in. Weird earthquakes happen out of nowhere, the women have no idea what their husbands do for a living, and no woman can go near the headquarters of The Victory Project in the desert. 

These details quickly get the audience into the thriller nature of the film though at times it tries too hard to be a horror film rather than a thriller. Imagery of women in bathing suits, dancing in sync appears time and time again with no real reason for the imagery. Sometimes it’s a little too much and distracts from the overall theme of the movie, which is supposed to be a feminist push. 

Then it comes to one of the biggest factors, the acting. So many people prior to and after the movie’s release, have expressed worries about Styles acting capabilities. He’s passionate when he needs to be and more passive when he doesn’t. While he does seem to have difficulty grasping onto the delivery of some of his lines, overall Styles is capable of a role such as Jack’s. With a more seasoned thriller director, not that Wilde did a bad job directing this just isn’t her usual genre, his role would’ve come across better. 

But, there’s no doubt that with Pugh’s acting experience, her character does tend to overshadow Jack at times. She’s a powerhouse whose haunting, thriller acting improves any movie. Though I can’t even be mad about that because it helps Alice’s characterization of this strong, independent, female character trapped under the world of her male partner. This makes more sense after seeing the plot twist of the movie, which I won’t spoil. 

Either way though, the movie is entertaining and attention-grabbing. There are some slower points where the movie seems to drag, but for the most part there’s always something new for the viewer to discover in each scene. I didn’t even realize there are two moments where characters break the fourth wall until looking through Twitter after the movie. 

With all that being said, I do have one big issue with the movie. “Don’t Worry Darling” is supposed to be a feminist power piece. The key phrase there being “supposed to be.” 

The topic of feminism against this incel-like man power isn’t even brought up till the last 30 minutes of the film. Up until that point, Alice can be seen as a fighter, possibly even resilient, but not necessarily a feminist hero. She didn’t even realize who exactly she was against until that last 30 minutes. 

Compared to “The Stepford Wives” this is where the film really falls short. I enjoyed the movie as an overall thriller film but I would by no means call it a feminist piece beyond that it expands a feminist’s nightmare into reality (again, I won’t spoil anything but you’ll understand what I mean if you view it).

It’s hard to put my mixed feelings for “Don’t Worry Darling” into words. On one hand, it’s a captivating movie that had me unsettled the whole time. But on another hand, it could have been so much better and more impactful with a few changes.

It’s definitely worth watching “Don’t Worry Darling,” even if it’s just to see Style’s charming face (well… for most of the movie… no spoilers, just hints). However, this isn’t going to be the best movie you’ve ever seen. And I really recommend reading “The Stepford Wives” after for a better appreciation.