Don’t Worry Darling – Film Review
by Brian Merriman
Director -Olivia Wilde
Writers – Katie Silberman, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke
Stars- Florence Pugh, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, Harry Styles
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ is one of the most talked about films of the year, more for the alleged or invented carry-on of the stars, rather than the movie itself. This is a creditable American psychological thriller that opens and continues with glamour (costumes Arianna Philips), superb design and surreal location in the mysterious ‘Victory’ village. The visuals are on a par with Tom Forde’s design of ‘A Single Man’ – so stylish, vividly colourful and including a jaw-dropping motorcade of luxury vehicles. It is quite stunning and captures the ‘Stepford Wives’ images of an American ‘wholesomely perfect’ culture that permeated many films and theatres from the 1950s. Add to that the dance sequences and 1930s styling of a synchronised blonde female dancing ‘chorus’ with a suitable soundtrack – it is quite a visual feast.
Harry Styles is major box office at present. This multi-talented artist is cast in more of a ‘Stepford Husband’ supporting role, which he acquits perfectly well. Styles’ presence is exploited somewhat in the movie. He simulates many sexual scenes, kisses a man in the opening sequence (which is most certainly jarring with the period) and delivers the limited ‘brainwashed’ character of Jack Chambers (not the Irish politician!) without fault. The scene where Chambers tries to cook a meal is funny but reinforces the stereotypical roles that all the characters occupy. But it is most certainly a supporting role that many could have fulfilled, though few would get the media attention – hence great casting. Harry has delivered.
Chris Pines is the menacing ‘Guru’ who promises to ‘change the world’ from our surreal location of a desert location called ‘Victory’. His sculpted look is a sinister presence throughout a plot that spins on the desire of men to ‘give’ women what (they think) they want and need. It is good old-fashioned 1950s sexism and turns on the fact that women were beginning to reject domestic ‘perfection’ to assert their own identity and maximise their many skill sets. It is a clash that only has one winner.
After dealing with the male emphasis of the marketing, what is the real quality of ‘Don’t Worry Darling’? Primarily, it is a strong testament to the many talents and skills of Silberman, Wilde and Florence Pugh, around whose character, the plot relies. This trio have delivered a worthy film. Pugh (Alice Chambers) is the performance centre of this movie, her strong character, growth and delivery are what make the film work well. Silberman (with the Van Dykes) creates a real character in ‘Alice’ that defies all the conformist pressures required by the Victory scenario. Wilde’s direction accelerates the pressure of the circumstances and Pugh rises to each challenge with skill.
There are a lot of good twists and turns in this psychological drama. It brings you on many an unexpected and somewhat eery journey. It initially baits you with male/female stereotypes but endures them, as they all come together in the world that this film occupies. It is not what you are led to think. The plot is developed well and the arc always keeps your interest, until it ratchets up in an unexpected manner, that validates the film’s worthy psychological tag, which is well earned.
Director Wilde also plays ‘Bunny’ with great strength, and a range of supporting roles are well crafted and cast including Kiki Layne (Margaret), Douglas Smith (John), Sydney Chandler (Violet) and Gemma Chan (Shelley) of particular note.
‘We are perfect in here’ says Jack. The setting and location certainly are perfect and the rest is more than worth a look.