Florence Pugh Shines Beyond the Clouds of “Don’t Worry Darling” Drama

Florence Pugh Shines Beyond the Clouds of “Don’t Worry Darling” Drama

Olivia Wilde’s latest production “Don’t Worry Darling,” came flying into theaters surrounded by a swirl of drama and eventually garnered a wide range of reviews. The justification for the swath of negative reactions ranges anywhere from audiences writing off the movie as a gratuitous Harry Styles fan event to dismay at the seemingly superfluous drama that ensued at the Venice Film Festival just before the film’s debut. Despite the film’s generally low rating (39% on Rotten Tomatoes, 48% on Metacritic and a 6.3 on IMDB), the plot takes an interesting, albeit fairly shallow, dive into examining some modern social commentary. In addition to the fantastic performance by star Florence Pugh and appearances by Harry Styles, the skill of Chris Pine and some beautiful cinematography paints “Don’t Worry Darling” as a  quintessential movie theater experience. 

My main complaint about the film was the lack of concise, clear direction in the plot. While there are a multitude of films that leave you with unanswered questions which drive the impact of the story deeper, that doesn’t work so well in the case of “Don’t Worry Darling.” There is a fine line between ambiguity and aimlessness. One explanation for the open-endedness and plethora of plot holes is that the film was originally set to have a completely different ending, one that many audience members agree would have made for a more logical and satisfying conclusion. The pacing of the movie feels uneven at best, rushing to fill in the gaps of information handed to the audience at some points and crawling along at others. Combine this with the fact that the reality behind The Victory Project is pretty predictable and you have the perfect recipe for a movie that leaves audiences feeling unsatisfied, if not outright bored. 

I, however, thought that altogether the film was a pretty solid and enjoyable piece of art even with the obvious criticisms. So, what rescues this movie from being a total failure? To myself and many others, it was the fantastic performances of Pugh and Pine. Pugh, who was catapulted onto the forefront of the acting scene after starring in Ari Aster’s “Midsommar,” is striking and on the nose here. Her slow realization and descent into madness within The Victory Project world is the main intrigue bound to keep viewers in their seats. Playing the role of a 1950s housewife, Pugh manages to portray the passion, frustration and teetering self control of a woman completely trapped in a sparkling facade of a life. Her range and expression is commendable and I feel that she truly carried the movie. I have been following her career and admiring her performances since the 2019 debut of “Midsommar” and I have found myself consistently impressed with her work. 

Pine seemed perfectly cast for the role of Frank, the main man pulling the strings behind the Victory Project. Pine plays his role expertly, seen at all times decked out in classic 50’s ensembles and often complete with a knowing and unsettling grin that lingers long after his rousing speeches meant to solidify his cult following in the movie. Charismatic, charming and altogether disquieting, the dynamic tension between his character and Pugh was the highlight of the film for me.

I can’t review this movie without also noting my admiration for the gorgeous cinematography. The sets, costumes and the multitude of beautiful shots was a really satisfying aspect of the movie for me. Matthew Libatique, a wonderful cinematographer, was responsible for the gorgeous shots in “Don’t Worry Darling,” and has also worked on beautiful movies such as “Requiem for a Dream,” “Black Swan” and “Mother!”. 

The final piece of the movie that really hooked me was Olivia Wilde’s decision to base Chris Pine’s character Frank around Jordan Peterson, a media personality from Canada who many regard as a conservative pseudointellectual whose main audience is young men, most of whom would be considered “incels.” Wilde based Pine’s character off many of Peterson’s comments about the ideal return to a past time where good women are, as Peterson would describe, “conscientious and agreeable.”  These sentiments are clearly paralleled in the movie and create an engaging and motivating force behind Pugh’s character and her discovery of the truth. Pine’s character is often seen employing his power and charisma to enable the men who have trapped their wives in the simulation while simultaneously gaslighting and punishing any of the women who try to unveil the truth and his subsequent corruption. 

Overall I gave “Don’t Worry Darling “a 3.5/5 stars. While the tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes (approved film critics) stands at 39%, the audience score is at 76%. By looking past the drama surrounding the movie premiere and cast as well as the harsh criticism of Harry Styles’ performance, the movie can prove to be quite enjoyable, if a little slow or predictable. ie “Don’t Worry Darling” is now streaming in theaters worldwide.