Don’t Worry Darling  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Olivia Wilde, US, 2022, 123 mins

Cast:  Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan

Review by Carol Allen

Olivia Wilde’s second film as director is similar in theme to Ira Levin’s twice filmed novel The Stepford Wives – the exploitation and objectification of women by men.

It takes place apparently in the fifties – a period which appears in in America in particular to epitomise a perfect time for men, when they were in charge and women were subservient housewives.

Alice (Florence Pugh) and her husband Jack (Harry Styles) live in is a glossy enclosed development in the middle of the Californian desert housing the employees and their families of the top secret corporate Victory project.  Harry goes off to work every morning with the other husbands in their smart cars to their unspecified jobs somewhere in the desert, while the wives stay in their all mod cons homes cleaning, cooking and when chores are done going to ballet classes run by the boss’s wife (Gemma Chan) and lazing by the pool sipping colourful cocktails until it’s time to greet hubby’s homecoming.

Alice and Jack appear to be idyllically happy and in love.  Sexually they can’t keep their hands off each other with somewhat devastating effects on the dining table, all laid out for the delicious dinner she’s been preparing for him. 

Everything is perfect, until Alice becomes disturbed by the fate of another wife Margaret (Kiki Lane) who becomes unaccountably depressed and remote and then kills herself.   Sensing there is something murky lurking, Alice makes a forbidden trip out into the desert, where she finds an apparently deserted high tech looking facility but no sign of the men who are supposedly working there, after which she suffers from strange visions, including a continuous circle of Busby Berkeley type dancers.  What on earth is going on?   You may well ask.

Because although we do find out why Jack has imprisoned Alice in what is in fact a phony world, we are left with an awful lot more questions.   Where do the men go during the day?   What is Frank (Chris Pine) the creepy CEO of Victory. getting out of it, apart from a power trip?  And how is it all financed?

On the plus side the film is slick, good looking and well directed by Wilde, also a good actress, who takes a supporting role here as Alice’s best friend.  The highly talented Pugh is terrific in the main role, with the film revolving around her, while Styles in his first leading role as her husband does a decent job.  Chan as Pine’s spouse, who knows more than she’s letting on, is a bit wasted but gets her revenge in the final moments.   And the climax of the film features a very tense, well directed car chase.  But it culminates in an unsatisfying and enigmatic ending, which still doesn’t answer all those questions.