MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Don’t Worry Darling - In Theaters
Directed by Olivia Wilde
Starring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles
In the fantastic suburban town in which the characters of Don’t Worry Darling live, life is beautiful and peaceful. Everyone lives in a nice home and enjoys countless parties with their friends and neighbors. The music, fashions and furniture place this story in mid 1950’s Palm Springs, California. Every morning the men drive off in their candy-colored cars to work; the wives stay at home to clean the house, attend dance classes and drink cocktails. All of the children seem happy and healthy. This is the planned community of The Victory Project, the brainchild of its leader, Frank (Chris Pine). (Always beware leaders who are known by their first name alone – unless their name is Jesus, that is!)
We spend most of this movie with Jack (Styles) and Alice (Pugh). They don’t have any children so they have the time to have spontaneous sex in interesting places, including the dining room table where their antics put a pot roast in jeopardy.
Most of the storyline involves Alice slowly discovering that there is trouble in Paradise. She begins to suspect something dark beneath the sunny surface of Victory. The more she explores, the more she questions everything that is going on, including what motivates her husband and the other housewives.
My main complaint with this movie is the community of Victory. If this town is supposed to represent the “good life”, shouldn’t it at least seem to be attractive? I have never found mid-20th-century living all that great (and I’m old enough to represent that era). If the 50’s were so “cool”, why do most people choose to remodel their homes and cleanse it of these artifacts? If Don’t Worry Darling is meant to serve as a feminist screed against these patriarchal values, it’s incredibly timid about things. It lacks the ferocity of The Handmaid’s Tale, the satirical edge of The Truman Show, or the irony of Pleasantville.
All that is left to do with originality is a surprise ending typical of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. I must admit that I was initially hooked by some of the movie’s late revelations, but even those twists began to unravel before the film was over.
Florence Pugh is a great actress and she deserves special praise for working really hard to make Alice a memorable character in search of her identity. Harry Styles does a good job in a bland role, although I wish that he could have decided between a British or American accent. I must credit Styles with a goofy dance scene that can compete against Elaine’s in Seinfeld.
Like a cracked egg with nothing inside its shell, Don’t Worry Darling is a cult movie that tells you nothing about cults, a warning about embracing past glories with no political agenda, diversity without representation, and – maybe – a cautionary tale about what happens when we try to play God and create a world in our image.
It’s a rare film that has a trailer more intriguing than the finished product. Enjoy the preview and wait for this to stream on HBO Max. Don’t worry, darling, it will be sooner than you think.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Two halos: Provocative possibilities, decent acting, and retro art direction aren’t enough to redeem a film that seems unsure of its own message.
Three pitchforks: Erotic but nongraphic sex scenes; one violent death; brief swearing; much alcohol consumption; deception.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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