Review by Dan Skip Allen
Olivia Wilde has had a successful acting career, but it wasn't until she directed the film Booksmart that she finally got the critical acclaim she deserved. Don't Worry Darling is the follow-up to that coming-of-age comedy. That movie was a fun look at modern teens in America. This is a vastly different film from that one, yet more important than anyone could imagine — one of the most important films I've seen this year.
Alice and Jack (Florence Pugh and Harry Styles) are a young couple living an idyllic life in a subdivision called Victory on a cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere adjacent to a desert in California. They have a lovely house with a manicured lawn and a classic module car anyone would want. Their neighbors have the same thing with a few differences, like children or one of the wives might be pregnant. This is a life any young couple would dream of until something causes Pugh's character to question everything she thought she knew about her life and the perfect society she lives in.
Don't Worry Darling is a mix of The Stepford Wives and The Village — two films with twists that make the movies better without knowing anything about them. This film is very similar in that regard. Not knowing anything about it will make the overall experience much more rewarding. Even an enigmatic leader, Frank (Chris Pine), of the community is straight out of science fiction.
This film takes the physiological thriller to a new level. Sure it's a tried and true genre that has been overdone in the past, but not like this. This movie takes a subject of today's society and infuses it into this film which makes perfect sense. Mind manipulation is another trope in these kinds of films, but it is used to perfection to make the Pugh character come across as entirely crazy and unhinged. This way, she is more believable when the twist finally airs its ugly head. Pugh is fantastic in this role.
To make this world believable, the production value has to be perfect, and it is just that. The houses, cars, clothes, and hair and makeup are superb. The thing that drives this story forward is the score by John Powell is masterful in its subtlety and precise nature. It uses odd sounds to reflect the odd circumstances and the world these characters find themselves in. On top of that, the cinematography by Matthew Libatique combines with the production value to create a picturesque world these characters find themselves in.
This movie has so many important things that make it what it is but probably the most crucial thing that brings it full circle is the script by Katie Silberman, Carey, and Shane Van Dyke. They have created a story right out of the headlines.
All the negative press behind Don't Worry Darling will only strengthen its resolve in my mind because this story needed to be told in this way, with these actors. Styles specifically stands out in his role, and Pugh gives a great performance, as always. Wilde's direction is very good as well. She puts all the pieces together to make a masterful film the world needs to see. Audiences should ignore their feelings toward the behind-the-scenes drama between her and Styles. It will probably benefit from all the drama, though, because people will want to see what all the hubbub is about. If that means they get to see this great film, all the better.
Don't Worry Darling opens in theaters on September 23.