The drama within and behind the scenes of Don’t Worry Darling
Emme Larkins, Staff Writer
The plot crumbled just as fast as the eggshells did in Alice’s hands.
One of the most chatted-up films of the year finally hit theatres last September, Don’t Worry Darling, along with its cast and director, has been making headlines for months now, long before its fall release.
Even after audiences have seen the film, the drama still seems to be at the top of the public’s mind. From the A-list-singer turned leading man striking up a relationship with the director; to the director caught lying about casting issues; to the rumour mill claiming the Oscar-nominated leading woman wound up taking over from the director. The film’s publicity team seem to have found themselves in a position where the real-life stories are more interesting than the movie itself.
At the centre of it all is the director Olivia Wilde. The piping hot tea started brewing the second she and Harry Styles became an item in January 2020. Since then we have seen a pretty obvious falling out between Wilde and Florence Pugh, a.k.a. “Miss Flo”; we’ve seen her called out by Shia LaBeouf and we saw the Venice Film Festival’s now infamous #SpitGate. Some have said the production is cursed. And this reviewer sees one theme that marries the issues off-screen with the issues in the film itself – Wilde.
In terms of on-screen issues, my belief is that it all started when the rights to the screenplay were sold to Wilde, and she chose to have a writer rewrite the ending. Let’s be clear the original screenplay had already won awards and didn’t need Wilde meddling with the plot. A seamless ending is crucial to any film, particularly a film of this nature. Spoilers ahead!
Jack (played by Harry Styles) and Alice (played by Florence Pugh) appear to be the perfect couple, though we quickly learn that all is not as it seems. The audience eventually learns that the (not so) perfect 1950s Victory, the fictional setting, is all a simulation. In fact, present-day Jack lured his wife, Alice, against her will into the bizarre fictional world and basically held her captive. This realization is supposed to help all the foreshadowing fall into place, and it did – until the last 20 minutes. This is where things seemed to muddy. The production team, Wilde included, chose to focus on boringly-fantastical car chases and meaningless shock and awe.
This decision left little time for an actual explanation and conclusion. Many moviegoers left the film confused, debating how the simulation worked without any real answers.
In terms of cast performances, it has become a fact in the industry that Pugh is a force to be reckoned with. She is phenomenal in every single one of her projects, and she pulled it off yet again in Don’t Worry Darling despite the circumstances. Her deeply sad and troubled breakdowns were frankly beautiful to watch. One of the few moments I truly felt the weight and meaning of the movie is when Alice screams, “It was my life!”
Pugh’s performance particularly shined in her scenes opposite Chris Pine, playing Frank, Victory’s leader. Though Pine did not have big screen time in the film he was also a shining light in the project. Unfortunately, the performances put on by these two were not matched by their counterparts. Wilde and Styles’ performances were less than impressive. Who am I to say, but perhaps they were more focused on the previously mentioned offscreen extracurriculars?
Not that Styles’ first lead role was a bust, but he could certainly learn a thing or two from costars like Pugh. Frankly, the star seemed to lack star quality.
The themes of the film revolved heavily around misogyny, gender roles and conformity of marriage. All relevant and important topics to cover in film and in art, though I fear the film may have crossed over into the territory of glorifying and glamorizing the 1950s housewife lifestyle, including glorifying what we learn later are scenes of sexual violence. But that’s an article for another day.
Sadly, social media were flooded with women wishing they could find a handsome man to provide for them while they cooked and cleaned all day. And if this is what viewers got from the film, I fear the intended message was lost in the casting of heartthrob Styles and the offscreen drama.
The gossip surrounding the film still hasn’t stopped, with Wilde and ex-fiance, Jason Sudeikis, flooding tabloid headlines once again. All in all, is it a worthwhile watch? Hardly. For substance and commentary on the issues we face in society today, absolutely not.