This review contains minor spoilers.
Sophomore director Olivia Wilde’s pop culture picks attracted audiences, such as singer-songwriter and newer actor Harry Styles and May Queen protagonist Florence Pugh.
“Don’t Worry Darling” places Alice (played by Pugh) in a ’50s high-class living simulation where the men go off each day to work on their mystifying “Victory Project” and the women never ask questions.
Pugh exists effortlessly within the horror genre, leaving reality behind with a curiously expressive face.
She and her opposite Frank (played by Chris Pine), leader of the commune, acted with acuity in a scene alone together in the kitchen. Pine especially embodied the antagonist, fixing his eyes with an all-seeing glare.
Frank’s wife Shelley (played by Gemma Chan) stole the screen in each of her scenes. Dean (played by Nick Kroll) added comedic value as Wilde’s partner and Styles’ best mate.
Styles, however, was unimpressive. Often reactionless and too quiet to hear, he stifled the deeper threat of his insecure inner character. At least Styles’ passive performance misled the audience into trusting that his fellow men had no clue about their phony lives.
The first act provides great momentum and suspense. Alice cracked open the plot perfectly, waking herself up early with fistfuls of hollow eggshells.
By contrast, the middle section felt long and boring. Not much happened besides Alice getting trapped over and over again in her housewife routine.
The thrill eventually returned with a shocking social commentary. When following expensive male authority figures, troubled men like Jack (played by Styles) might go too far to assume dignity for themselves, then try to assert their marriages into his ideals.
Alice escaped hers cathartically.
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Bunny (played by Wilde) offered a second and stronger twist. Her sudden compassion for neighbor and nemesis Alice ironed out the film’s major secret and reflected strength in solidarity within the final few minutes.
Katie Silberman’s screenplay made sense of a somewhat elusive story, written with tight dialogue that translated concisely to the camera. She and Wilde saved as much time and mind as possible, but confusion still came and went during the two hour viewing.
While keen with sexual symbolism, the creators occasionally stretch the other horror tropes so far their power deflates. For instance, they ladened the action music with moaning sounds.
Otherwise, the film had a memorable soundtrack, authentic costumes and clear characters, capturing a paradise in between the true, forbidden world.
The hallucinatory “Don’t Worry Darling” appears worth people’s pretty pennies.