The reviews are pouring in for Olivia Wilde’s hotly-anticipated Don’t Worry Darling, and the general consensus is that the film fails to rise above the tabloid drama that has plagued the weeks leading up to its premiere. Wilde grew her sophomore directorial feature from a screenplay written by Dick Van Dyke’s grandsons, Carey and Shane Van Dyke; Wilde collaborated with Booksmart writer Katie Silberman to expand it into what became Don’t Worry Darling. The film is led by Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, with Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, and Wilde herself included in the supporting cast.
Set in the 1950s, the psychological thriller follows Alice and Jack Chambers (Pugh and Styles), a married couple living in a suburban utopia called Victory. Every house is the same, the men go to work, the women stay at home, and everything hinges on the idea that conformity is the key to maintaining balance. Soon, Alice begins to question whether Victory’s supposed perfection is all it’s cracked up to be, and a series of disturbing discoveries threatens to destroy the couple’s lives and the community itself.
Don’t Worry Darling premiered Monday at the 79th annual Venice International Film Festival following a press conference with the film’s stars, from which Pugh was notably absent. Ironically, her performance is one of the only aspects of Don’t Worry Darling that is receiving universal praise in the film’s first reviews, with critics deeming her the movie’s obvious standout. Many are acknowledging the film’s ambitious concept and vibrant recreation of the ’50s, but are less impressed with the plot. Read some selected quotes from various critics below:
David Rooney, THR
“The high-concept, low-satisfaction psychological thriller marks an ambitious upgrade in scope for Wilde from the character-driven coming-of-age comedy of Booksmart, and she handles the physical aspects of the project with assurance. It’s just a shame all the effort has gone into a script without much of that 2019 debut’s disarming freshness.”
Kate Erbland, IndieWire
“Don’t Worry Darling is so clearly, so obviously not set in an idyllic ’50s community that to say the film packs a twist is not at twist at all. It’s disingenuous, easy, cheeky — much like the film itself, which starts off strong before crumbling into baffling storytelling choices made worse by the revolting intentions behind them.”
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“The film feels it has to avoid the obvious reason for Victory’s existence and go down the rabbit hole after something else: so when the switch is finally flipped to give us the big secret, it feels absurdly negligible and contrived, and the details are not thought through. Styles may or not be a talented actor; it’s not easy to tell from this, but the normally excellent Pugh has not been interestingly directed, certainly not compared with her work in broadly comparable movies such as Midsommar or The Falling.”
Helen O’Hara, Empire
“We want a confrontation that Alice never quite gets, and a sense of closure that never arrives. That might be Wilde’s point — these are, after all, messy questions and nebulous forces that reach far beyond the individual — but there’s a nagging feeling at the end that something remains unspoken and unrealised.”
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“Between the pop ambition, the tasty dream visuals, and the presence of Harry Styles in his first lead role, Don’t Worry Darling should have no trouble finding an audience. But the movie takes you on a ride that gets progressively less scintillating as it goes along.”
Brian Truitt, USA Today
“Pugh, like she’s done with Black Widow, Midsommar and others, continues to make everything she’s in better – and, boy howdy, it’s needed here as the plot grows more convoluted. The lack of chemistry between Pugh and Styles is another disconnect – her dynamic with Pine, albeit antagonistic, is far more effective and not explored nearly enough.”
Pete Hammond, Deadline
“On its own terms, Don’t Worry Darling is actually quite entertaining if you’re in the mood, even if Wilde’s candy-coated psychological thriller doesn’t rewrite the rules of the genre in any significant way. Despite having a prestigious Out of Competition slot for its world premiere today at Venice, this is a commercial movie more than anything else and the New Line Cinema production could do well with audiences.”
Tomris Laffly, The AV Club
“Pugh, of course, is terrific, though she’s not just leading the film, she’s carrying it. But even if Don’t Worry Darling’s prettiness is intentionally engineered to make your skin crawl, all that sadly fills your brain when you turn away your gaze is a lingering emptiness—a film with no more weight than, well, a really good trailer.”
The early reception to Don’t Worry Darling is disappointing, especially given how sharp and effective Booksmart, Wilde’s first directorial outing, was. It’s also hard to say how many critical opinions were influenced by the press drama that has surrounded Don’t Worry Darling, even though many of these reviews begin with a note from the reviewer highlighting their conscious effort to judge the film itself apart from the behind-the-scenes chaos. Unfortunately, it seems like even that approach couldn’t save the movie for many reviewers. The issues with Don’t Worry Darling go beyond the drama, making for a very mixed effort.
Still, Don’t Worry Darling will undoubtedly pull some good box office numbers given its two leads – Styles, especially. For the more critical moviegoer, the best course of action may be to minimize expectations and just go into it for a fun time. It has been noted that viewers might still find some enjoyment in the thriller elements. Pugh manages to captivate in everything she’s in, and by the looks of it, Don’t Worry Darling is no exception. At the very least, it’s good to know this movie only reinforces her status as a blossoming powerhouse.
Source: Various (see above)