Chances are you've probably heard about the upcoming film Don't Worry Darling thanks to all the highly publicized behind-the-scenes drama.
But despite all the rumored tensions on set, confusion about actors exiting the project, and faux theories of celebs being spit on, Don't Worry Darling is finally hitting the big screen. And Olivia Wilde's feature-length follow-up to her directorial feature debut, Booksmart, is quite the spectacle, but not without its flaws.
BTW, the script was penned by Katie Silberman, who also wrote Booksmart, rewritten from an original spec script by Carey and Shane Van Dyke, who — fun fact — are Dick Van Dyke's grandsons (they get "Story by" credit on the film).
Now, before we get going here, please keep in mind there are some spoilers ahead. So, if you want to know absolutely nothing about the movie before going into it, just bookmark this for later!
Leading up to the film's release, not much was known about the plot. In fact, if you've seen the trailer, you probably thought to yourself, "Wow, this looks really cool, but I have no idea WTF is going on." And, TBH, the first half of the movie is just like that.
So, Don't Worry Darling tells the story of a woman named Alice (Florence Pugh) and her husband Jack (Harry Styles). The young, beautiful couple live a seemingly idyllic life in a town called Victory, which exists smack dab in the middle of a desert, serving major Palm Springs vibes. Although Victory itself is a mid-century dream come true, it's clear that outside this community's walls is vast nothingness.
Alice and Jack spend their days having dinner parties with friends, dancing to old Ray Charles records, and wearing clothes that look like something straight out of Mad Men. Life couldn't be better (or more aesthetic).
However, watching Alice and Jack's daily routine, you can't help but be reminded of The Stepford Wives. Alice makes Jack the same breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee) every day, and every day he and his coworkers/neighbors jet off to work in perfectly synchronized, vintage cars.
The rest of Alice's day is spent either cleaning the house, hanging out by the pool, or shopping at the one store in town, Sew Lovely.
And if you know anything about The Stepford Wives, this should tell you that things are definitely not what they seem. And, yeah, there's a dark reality behind all of this. As the story unfolds, we begin to note strange things happening in Victory.
At first, it's subtle details like a radio broadcast Alice listens to every day from Victory's founder, Frank (Chris Pine). Like a self-help audiotape, he'll say things like, "You are worthy of a life you deserve."
There are also much less subtle things, like the entire town shaking and rattling every now and again. One of the wives wonders if the mini earthquakes are related to what the husbands are working on. Is it a secret weapons project underground? She's quickly told to not ask questions like that by Alice's BFF, Bunny (Olivia Wilde).
At a work party hosted by Frank and his wife Shelley (Gemma Chan), we learn a little bit more about the Victory Project, the thing that all the men are working on. Except we really don't learn much at all about it. None of the wives actually know what their husbands do. Frank proceeds to describe their work in vague terms and continues to chant inspirational things like, "Chaos is the enemy of progress."
One of Alice's friends, Margaret (who's been AWOL for a bit), begins to show some troubling behavior. Apparently, she'd wandered out into the desert — the forbidden zone — and since her return, she just hasn't been "right." The town's doctor forces pills on her, her husband keeps her away from everyone, and she's effectively shunned by her old friends (especially Bunny).
Meanwhile, Alice begins to have strange nightmares and visions herself. Initially, her nightmares are inexplicable — she keeps seeing a black and white image of chorus girls dancing. But way-too-real things begin to happen to her during the day, too.
When the walls of the house crush her against a window she's cleaning, Alice is unsure whether it's really happening or if she's just "losing it." Knowing what happened to Margaret, Alice does her best to keep this information to herself, fearing for her own safety.
In an attempt to clear her head, Alice rides the town trolley to the end of the line.
She sees a plane crash in the distance — no one else sees it for some reason — and she runs out into the desert after it to help.
But what Alice finds out in the desert isn't the plane. She finds a strange building at the top of a hill. Allegedly, this is the Victory Project's headquarters.
Alice blacks out after her discovery, and without getting into too heavy spoiler territory, let's just say this is the point at which Alice's life truly begins to unravel.
Back at home, Alice awakens to find Jack attempting to make dinner as though nothing is wrong and nothing happened to her. Confused, Alice tries to explain all the strange things she saw, and Jack completely gaslights her — "you're confused!" is basically the vibe he gives out. But Alice is determined to figure out WTF is REALLY going on in Victory.
Now, I don't want to spoil the rest of the movie for you. However, if you're one of those people who REALLY want to know what happens, you can click to reveal here:
From a filmmaking standpoint, Wilde has done an excellent job putting together a team of craftspeople who are at the top of their game. The film is GORGEOUS and a complete feast for the eyes.
Huge shoutout to cinematographer Matthew Libatique, BTW, who is best known for his collaborations with Darren Aronofsky on films like Black Swan and The Fountain (among MAAANY others).
And the stars' performances themselves are great. TBH, Pugh has been really good in everything she's done so far, so it's not wholly surprising she's the highlight of the film. Once again, Pugh has brought her crying face A-game to the table for this one. And in case you're wondering, yes, Harry Styles can hold his own against a more seasoned cast. His performance as "perfect" husband Jack plays off well.
However, Don't Worry Darling is far from perfect. The Twilight Zone-esque concept is great, but as the big reveal begins to unfold, the film seems to crumble under the weight of its own cool and nightmarish ideas. It really feels like it races to wrap up the story sooner than it should, and I found myself left with a lot of questions. TBH, the more I thought about it later, the more frustrated I got.
Overall, Don't Worry Darling is a dazzling film that's visually stunning, and while I enjoyed most of the ride, it just didn't quite stick the landing. 7/10 would recommend.
Don't Worry Darling lands in theaters Sept. 23, and you can watch the official trailer here: