After one of the most chaotic and entertaining press tours leading up to the Venice Film Festival premiere of Don’t Worry Darling, everyone is talking about the film — but is it any good?
Don’t Worry Darling is Olivia Wilde’s second stint as a feature film director, after her 2019 directorial debut, 2019’s Booksmart, was greeted with glowing reviews. In late 2019, Variety announced that Wilde would be directing Don’t Worry Darling, and audiences were excited. In early 2020, Florence Pugh, Shia LaBeouf and Chris Pine were announced as the leading cast of the film, and let’s just say… the rest is history, which you can read all about here.
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The film follows Alice (Pugh), a 1950s housewife living with her husband (Harry Styles, who replaced LaBeouf) in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets. But does the film live up to the hype? Did the off-screen tension seep onto the screen? Is Styles’ accent as bad as it sounded in the clip that was released recently?
Now that critics have finally seen the film, we have some answers.
In short, critics have praised Pugh’s performance highly, even going as far as to say she was holding the film together. They also praise the film’s stylistic choices, from its pastel colour palette to the costumes and “eye-catching setup”.
On the other hand, many of them said that the film is “repetitious”, that the script falters, and that it calls on references to films like The Stepford Wives and Get Out without adding much to the conversation.
The reviews have been enough to have people wonder if the film’s reception will be enough to land Wilde in ‘director jail‘, but in the end, it all really comes down to one thing: money. Let’s be real, with Styles now in the lead, the film is likely to still make enough money from his fans alone that Wilde can avoid being blacklisted by Hollywood.
Without further ado, here are the highlights, and perhaps, the lowlights, of what film critics are saying about Don’t Worry Darling.
What Are the Reviews of Don’t Worry Darling Saying?
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian:
First things first: it was unfair of everyone on Twitter to mock Harry Styles – on the basis of a single out-of-context online clip – for his wonky and unconvincing transatlantic accent in this film. There turns out to be a reason for it. Unfortunately, that reason is part of a larger wonkiness and unconvincingness in this handsomely designed but hammily acted, laborious and derivative mystery chiller. Directed by Olivia Wilde, it superciliously pinches ideas from other films without quite understanding how and why they worked in the first place. It spoils its own ending simply by unveiling it, and in so doing shows that serious script work needed to be done on filling in the plot-holes and problems in a fantastically silly twist-reveal.
Steph Green, BBC:
Olivia Wilde’s second stint in the director’s chair holds a stiletto to the throat of 1950s optimism, taking the plastic off the metaphorical sofa to expose the dangers of deifying an era where women are second-class citizens. The issue with Don’t Worry Darling, however, is that it is frequently rudimentary and repetitious – hammering home the same basic point about gender politics while a dulled supporting cast fails to add much colour to the story’s margins.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety:
The early scenes of Don’t Worry Darling are the film’s best, but even there it’s hard not to notice the top-heaviness with which the movie telegraphs its own darkness. (It’s not like we watch Chris Pine’s speech and think, “What a good dude!”) To really work, the film needed to reel us in slowly, to be insidious and surprising in the way that Get Out was. Instead, it’s ominous in an obvious way.
Phil de Semlyen, Time Out:
An initially heady cocktail of The Stepford Wives, Gaslight and Repulsion that’s garnished with a Mad Men aesthetic and a Philip K Dick-esque twist, Olivia Wilde’s stylishly rendered but muddled domestic horror is saved by another showstopping performance from Florence Pugh. You can practically feel her straining to hold together its hollow-feeling world – a 1950s corporate utopia called Victory Town in the American desert – as a housewife whose idyllic life slowly curdles into something horrifying.
Pete Hammond, Deadline:
That said, 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. It is sort of a cross between Get Out, The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby with a ’50s swinging Rat Pack vibe thrown in for good measure. And maybe even by luck of timing, the shutdown of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court provides gravitas for an underlying message here of the terror imposed by men controlling women’s bodies in this otherwise fun, if familiar, film.
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture:
Arriving at the Venice Film Festival on a rapidly growing tidal wave of toxic buzz, Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling is neither as bad as some are clearly hoping it will be nor as good as it probably needs to be to overcome the public-relations nightmare its press rollout has become. Hearing all the rumours of a troubled set and of actors falling out with the director, one might have expected a cacophonous, cobbled-together catastrophe. If only. The film is smooth, competent, (mostly) well acted, and merely tedious.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:
It’s certainly an eye-catching setup. Arianne Phillips’ retro-chic fashion-spread costumes and Katie Byron’s swanky midcentury-modern sets (Palm Springs, California, is the direct reference) are a glossy visual feast, even if there’s a hint of Ryan Murphy-style art-directorial excess. But the screenplay — a Black List title by brothers Carey and Shane Van Dyke, retooled by Katie Silberman, one of Wilde’s writers on Booksmart — doesn’t come together with persuasive revelations once the cracks in the utopia have been laid bare.
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair:
Don’t Worry Darling glides along, its jumble of repurposed elements in lively enough harmony until it’s time to knuckle down and really get into what’s happening to Alice. It’s then that Katie Silberman, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke’s screenplay begins to falter, as does Wilde’s direction. They show us essentially the same scene over and over again: Alice thinking she sees something unnerving only to be told, in gaslight-y terms, that she’s imagining things. She’s experiencing womanly hysteria, all the men in pressed white shirts and crisp suits who surround her insist. Wilde can’t figure out how to get the story out of this eddy; she stalls and repeats until it’s time to just go ahead and reveal what’s happening because the movie has to end at some point.
One D fans, take heart – it’s not all bad. For starters, the film looks gorgeous. Wilde beautifully captures the sunny suburban loveliness, and every day that the women wave their husbands off to work looks like a gleaming ad from the era.
The women wear fabulous outfits and the homes are stunning, courtesy respectively of costume designer Arianne Phillips and production designer Katie Byron. The only trouble is that we see the same scenes repeatedly: the breakfast preparation, the men driving off to work, the evening cocktail, the enthusiastic sex between Alice and Jack. It all feels a bit… done.
Don’t Worry Darling will land in HOYTS cinemas on October 6, when you can make up your own mind.