Don’t Worry Darling movie director: Olivia Wilde
Don’t Worry Darling movie cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan
Don’t Worry Darling movie rating: 2.5 stars
Don’t Worry Darling is at pains to emphasise what kind of a place Victory Town is. Men drive out to work every morning at the same time, in similar cars, to the same place. Women dutifully see them off and then, on cue, head back inside to clean, wash, scrub and cook, and be ready with a glass of drink in hand, bacon on the stove, starch in their dress and ribbon in their hair (yes, even that) for the men to return. Then, repeat.
Don’t Worry Darling is also at pains to emphasise why a place such as Victory Town is needed. “The world needs order, there is beauty in control, chaos hides under the auspice of equality, and there is a biological destiny to fulfil.” The men even acknowledge the “sacrifice” women make, in “just standing still”, “not asking too many questions”, and “staying”.
It’s a bubble that is waiting to burst, at one end propped up by the fluorescent, picture-perfect, candy-floss Alice (Florence Pugh), the other by the flint-hard and icy-cold Bunny (Olivia Wilde), and pumped up at all times by Frank (Chris Pine), the man who runs it like the Big Brother, with grey-blonde hair, deep-blue eyes and paradise-in-desert look. When he is not rallying his troops – the men – with motivational speeches or drinking soirees, who are all at work on some mystery project known as the “development of progressive materials”, he is droning on and on out of the radio at home to the wives. His own wife is Shelley, played by the glamorous and polished Gemma Chan.
Something’s gotta give is clear. How it does is where Wilde flounders in this much-anticipated second directorial venture. The meticulously manicured world of Victory Town is not unknown in the movies – its sheer veneer waiting to sink at the first punch of reality. Still, it’s a world of rich imagination here, with a shopping mall scene of live models exhibiting what women should buy particularly engrossing. The women too are different from each other, while outwardly all are docile and deferential to their “serious halves” — and hence interesting to know.
More interesting certainly than the bland Harry Styles playing Jack, Alice’s husband, who even struggles to keep up with his more vivacious wife. With the off-screen Wilde-Styles relationship, and the strain between the director and Pugh, the fodder of all gossip in the run-up to the release, Styles must try doubly hard to justify his presence in this star cast. And the pop star just can’t, but for a whirl where he is a miserable puppet at Frank’s command, and for all the steamy sex thrown in between him and Alice.
The film hints at a clash of personalities between Alice and Frank, which holds a lot more promise given the cackle of tension between Pugh and Pine, both supremely charismatic actors. But then Wilde goes nowhere with it.
If the revelation of the secret is the punchline, even that is an exercise conducted almost in indecent hurry, over before you can wrap your head around it. So, were all those concentric circles, ballet dancers with their whirling legs only filling the gaps? Sadly, it might be so.