Don't Worry Darling - Enthralling but essentially flawed
2.5 out of 5
In Don't Worry Darling, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) are a young married couple who are madly in love and living an idyllic life in a picturesque company town built in the desert. Like everyone who works at the Victory Project, Jack's work is top secret. But when Alice's friend Margaret (KiKi Layne) becomes disturbed by something she saw (or believes), Alice wonders whether life in Victory is truly as wonderful as it seems.
Wistfully wonderful, Wilde's psychological thriller is mid-century marvelous, so much so that it may work against its own purpose. Told from a female point of view, the film doesn't have a message so much as a driving question: What is the perfect life, and what would you sacrifice for it? When asked that, some might have an instant reaction that's wrapped up in identity, independence, and a modern perspective. But Wilde's movie wraps up the patriarchal past inside a seductive package of pretty pencil dresses, poolside parties, and sisterly shopping sprees. Alice is enthusiastic about her life with Jack, and the wives of Victory embrace supporting their husbands through clean houses, delicious dinners, sexy morning goodbyes, and martinis after work. The allure of that lifestyle is necessary for the rest of the movie's plot to unwind, and while the idea of it isn't intact by the end, there may be more than a few younger viewers who are sold on the notion that being a housewife looks pretty great.
That aside, Don't Worry Darling is enthralling, up to a point, in that it keeps you trying to figure out the "gotcha". Is it Stepford Wives? Is it clones? Is it robots?
Alice is a phenomenal character, and, as played by the talented Pugh, she has all the complexity of the female spirit. It doesn't seem coincidental that she shares her name with a famous literary character who's "curiouser and curiouser." When she sees a loose thread in the perfection of Victory, Alice just can't let it go. She knows she shouldn't pull on it, and she tries not to, knowing it may very well unravel everything she holds dear, yet she must. Once she starts tugging, viewers fly into the spiral of confusion with her, and when her answers come, it's in the form of a shocker that, for me, left more questions than answers.
Parents need to know that because heartthrob Harry Styles stars in the film, his tween and teen fans may be interested but the film isn't meant for kids. The couples in the town socialize daily, guzzling drinks and smoking cigarettes while looking fabulous (this is the Vogue version of the mid-20th century). While they don't include any graphic nudity, sex scenes between a married couple are intensely erotic, with a husband pleasuring his wife from start to (enthusiastic) finish. A suicidal act is shown in close-up, and one character experiences disturbing mental health "episodes." Other violence includes stabbings and someone being struck with a blunt object. The middle finger and "f--k" is said a couple of times.
For parents focused on raising active, critical teen thinkers, this Alice is worth following into the rabbit hole.