'Don't Worry Darling' Review: Florence Pugh & Harry Styles In Olivia Wilde's Suburban Thriller
Now this might be a complete shot in the dark but maybe when movie titles tell you not to do something, like worry, you should actually do that because it might just save your life. Director-actor Olivia Wilde's sophomore effort, psycho-thriller Don't Worry Darling could be an example of that, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Florence Pugh plays Alice, a suburban housewife living in the company town of Victory, California in what looks to be around 1950s or 60s. Her husband Jack (Harry Styles) has an obscure job at Victory—which is run by charismatic Frank (Chris Pine)—along with other men in the town, while Alice, Wilde's Bunny and other wives stay home, cook, clean and take care of children they might have. After Alice sees her friend Margaret (KiKi Layne) die by suicide, she suspects Frank to be hiding secrets about his company and their town.
Wilde's visual language, which is driven by Matthew Libatique's glass-and-mirrors-obsessed cinematography and Affonso Gonçalves' relentless editing, tells you right from the get-go that something evil is lurking in this town full of sunshine and tasty drinks. That's not a bad thing either because the execution is great throughout, and even intent is there for the first hour or so. Katie Byron's production design and Rachael Ferrara's decor work together to create distinct settings for actors and Wilde to immerse themselves in while also making it unsettling enough to tease story beats. Pugh dances between these two worlds flawlessly in her outing which is why you can connect to Alice's emotional arc even when the actor carries scenes on her own; underused Pine is occasionally a good sparring partner while Styles, well, is there as well.
When you have so many of those essential pieces working towards the vision, it's that more disappointing that problems of the film come down to the script written by Katie Silberman. The premise lends itself to rattle or even surprise audiences but it really turns out to be all that there is as Silberman's writing uses obvious characterisations and plot points at most obvious times, even if visual storytelling and the central mystery tease something more exciting. That mystery lying deep within then is the key to the movie's finale, which again lets filmmakers flex new muscles but falls rather flat on the page because it's so one-note. It's not a huge surprise that ''Darling'' deals with power balance, gender roles, consent and autonomy but it is a surprise that even with this much skill on screen, it never finds its own voice.
Smileys: Production design, Florence Pugh
Frowneys: Ending, screenplay, premise
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