“Don’t Worry Darling” is a film about Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles), a picture-perfect vision of “young love”, who live happily in an eerily utopian neighborhood with their ‘50s style home, cars and wardrobes to match. Every day, the wives stand in the cul-de-sac and kiss their husbands goodbye as they simultaneously drive off to work at the mysterious “Victory Project ‘’ for their cult-like leader Frank (Chris Pine). The only explanation given to the wives is that the men work on “the development of progressive materials.” The husbands are forbidden from giving any details about their top-secret work. After the men drive off in their fancy cars into the desert, their wives turn back and clean every inch of their already pristine homes, go shopping with bottomless checking accounts, swim at the country club pool, take dance classes, listen to Frank’s hypnotic propaganda about the Victory Project, cook a five-course meal and meet their husbands at the door with a cocktail. In this picture-perfect world, the only rule the women are given is to never leave.
What is bizarre in this film is the uniformity, the lack of chaos and actual life. What sets it apart from regular neighborhoods is the fact that they are utterly alone, apparently in the middle of a desert, like some sort of oasis. Their glorious houses, pools and lawns are all perfectly manicured.
Alice lives happily until she receives a warning from a friend telling her that something is wrong and they “shouldn’t be here.” This friend, Margaret (Kiki Layne), is apparently experiencing disillusions, as explained by the neighborhood doctor. Alice, believing her friend to be crazy, ignores the warnings until she witnesses Margaret standing on the roof of her house and taking her own life. When Alice is told that Margaret is fine, she starts to question everything, and Alice’s unraveling begins.
Strange occurrences begin to take place, including unexplained incidents, visions, flashes of memories and a song that stays stuck in her head that she eerily hums throughout the movie. One day, as Alice is riding the trolley into town, (because the women are not allowed to drive) she witnesses a plane crash behind a mountain in the desert. Panicking, she jumps off the trolley and climbs the mountain passing the “employees only” warning signs. She reaches the top to find not a plane crash, but the Victory Project’s headquarters. A small, white empty building. When she approaches the headquarters, she places her hands against the windows and visions appear. She awakes in her bed with her husband singing in the kitchen. She is convinced that she fell asleep and had a nightmare.
Something that catches me off guard is the absolute betrayal in this movie. Jack Chambers (Styles), is a seemingly loving and hard-working husband. Genuine moments between Jack and Alice showcase deep and undeniable love that would soon be obscured by betrayal, under the guise of helping her. Truthfully, the sadness and the loss of blind, trusting love is probably the thing that has stayed with me the most after watching the film.
Pugh’s performance was outstanding, as always. With a fantastic range and the ability to truly drive the emotional turmoil Alice takes on, we can relate and suffer with Alice as she makes her way through this film. Styles’ performance as Jack is somewhat lackluster. There are moments between Alice and Jack that feel very deep and real, though his character remains surface level while Alice is dynamic and relatable.
Looking deeper, a constant throughout the movie are the mirrors. Mirrors everywhere around their homes and in the dance studio showcase these bizarre situations where Alice is seemingly looking at herself from the outside, as if she's trapped. Another notable aspect was the music. The music was possibly the scariest part of this R-rated movie. The moment on top of the mountain after she goes searching for the plane, and she touches the headquarters had the most impactful musical touch. The pounding thumps like a heartbeat in the ear drums and the screeching chords made the hairs on my arms stand up.
One of my biggest criticisms of this film are the unanswered questions. Even with a shocking twist near the end of the movie that somewhat explains what is taking place, there are still many incidents that are never explained. For example, when Jack is promoted at the “Victory Project” and is forced to dance in front of the whole neighborhood like a puppet being controlled. When Alice wraps her head in saran wrap to perhaps test her mortality, when she is crushed by a wall while cleaning the window, when she cracks eggs that turn out to be empty, and even the fake plane crash. None of these incidents are ever explained, even when we discover what's taking place. These scenes give an unnerving feel, but they just don't make sense, and perhaps that's the point.
Something I appreciate is that the audience knows exactly what Alice knows. With limited context, perhaps that's why it's so confusing, why there are so many unanswered questions. We are just as shocked as Alice when we find out what exactly is going on in the end, which is a twist that I certainly never expected.
“Don’t Worry Darling” is a representation of what incels think women want. Women should stay at home: safe, happy, trapped, and controlled. It’s clear that director Oliva Wilde’s goal was to showcase the absurdity of this ideology, and it to push people to acknowledge how scary toxic masculinity truly is and what it has a possibility of turning into. The lengths at which the men go to control the women in this movie is mind-bending. However, that point has the possibility of being overlooked due to the confusing context of the film. “Don’t Worry Darling” was released in theaters on September 23rd, and I highly suggest seeing what you make of it yourself.