Florence Pugh gets to make precious few films in her lifetime. Why did “Don’t Worry Darling” have to be one of them? Her generational talent is a resource more finite than fossil fuels, albeit requiring fewer dino deaths. I’d straight-up shank a stegosaurus to give her a mulligan on director Olivia Wilde’s wannabe speculative fiction thriller. It’s off-brand “Twilight Zone.” It’s “Dusk Area” at best.
Before we go further: Harry Styles? Now, come on. Saddling her Majesty, Dame Florence Pugh with a cheeky musician for a scene partner is like forcing Dolly Parton to duet with a baby goat. Nobody cares if they make fun sounds and are cute, a professional is trying to do her job up there. This is all Christopher Nolan’s fault. “Dunkirk” is the inert gift that keeps giving, long after everyone has forgotten it exists.
Sorry, the criminal misuse of Florence Pugh just really blimeys me guv’nah, or whatever the British say.
It’s fine that we’re taking a long time to get to the point, as “Don’t Worry Darling” does the same thing. For the first hour and a half, it is just repetitive “homages” to better content about forced feminist madness. Then it’s a half hour of an absolutely hilarious reveal that we can’t talk about. Not only does the ending not adequately explain a lot of the nonsense; it is so uninspired as a “twist” to make the whole film feel like a multimillion-dollar adaptation of “Got Your Nose.” “You see, it was not your sniffer, but Harry Styles’s thumb all along!”
The blameless Queen Pugh plays Alice. Get it? Like “Alice in Wonderland!” If that reference sailed above your head, you’re going to love “Don’t Worry Darling.” Set in the desert, the film takes place at “The Victory Project,” a 1950s-era suburban utopia or dystopia, depending on how you feel about ever talking to your neighbors. Jack (Styles) disappears during the day to work on secret experiments, returning at night to perform oral sex on Alice after kissing her like he wants to eat her whole chin in one bite. Alice spends her days doing domestic stuff like cooking, cleaning, and having an existential crisis.
The last one is exacerbated by her increasing doubt in the community that Frank (Chris Pine) is leading. The highest suspension of disbelief is required to question Pine’s charisma. That all of us in the real-world are not currently in a cult led by that man is by his choosing, not ours. The film leads you to anticipate an Alice v Frank battle that it very much never delivers upon, as the resolution is more accidental than anything.
Next to asking Flo to sully herself in a hairy style, the slapdash plot progress is the most upsetting thing. Ostensibly a feminist parable, “Don’t Worry Darling” doesn’t actually have its lead solve anything. She’s just told stuff or suddenly remembers things. With the laughable ending, there was no version of this that could be “good.” But a better version does away with the cliched “reflection in the mirror goes rogue” stuff and lets its intelligent lead character actually do smart stuff.
Without the dopey denouement, it would just be regular bad. Every scene plays too long. Some of the cast is clearly in a different movie than others. None of the thematic messaging lands. Still, you could also say all of this about Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” so let’s not be tossing Wilde into director jail just yet. I would toss “Don’t Worry Darling” there, but no Florence Pugh movie gets an F on my watch.
Grade = D-
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Rosie Fletcher at Den of Geek says “More a partially successful curio than a storming second film, we’re still stoked to see what leaps into the unknown Wilde will take next.”
Jennifer Heaton at Alternative Lens says “Let’s all be honest, people: using 1950s retro kitsch as a metaphor for patriarchal structures and false utopia is played, and its use in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ gives away the gist of its intentions before you can even see a chink in its superficially flawless world.”
Travis Hopson at Punch Drunk Critics says “These big mystery box thrillers are tough to pull off under the simplest of circumstances, but when the film is as message-heavy as this one, including a swerve that compliments it thematically is even tougher, and ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ doesn’t hold up.”