North Texas Daily

Pugh outperforms Styles in Wilde’s ‘50s fantasy

Pugh outperforms Styles in Wilde’s ‘50s fantasy

Pugh outperforms Styles in Wilde’s ‘50s fantasy
September 29
13:00 2022

Content warning: The following story contains spoilers.

“Whose world is it?”

It’s Olivia Wilde’s world, and Florence Pugh — along with the rest of Hollywood — is just living in it.

In her second directorial film, Wilde crafts the utopia of Victory, California. It’s a ‘50s dream where men disappear to their 9 to 5s and their wives have a roast dinner prepared when they return.

Alice (Pugh) and her husband Jack Chambers (Harry Styles) reside in a cul-de-sac in Victory, next to neighbors Bunny (Wilde) and Dean (Nick Kroll). Every morning, like clockwork, Alice and her neighbors see their husbands off to their job developing “progressive materials” at Victory Headquarters, located in the desert on the outskirts of town.

It’s domestic bliss — as long as the women don’t ask questions. But Alice needs answers, and after she wanders into the desert her reality starts to fall apart.

As one of the most anticipated films of the year, “Don’t Worry Darling” discouraged movie buffs after it received 38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The good news is it’s not as bad as critics say. The bad news is it still doesn’t live up to its hype.

“Don’t Worry Darling” simultaneously immerses viewers in its stunning imagery and sound design while also lacking any inkling of depth or plot development.

The film successfully utilizes symmetry to build the utopian nature of Victory. Each day in Victory is methodical: a close-up of a cup of coffee and the sizzling of breakfast on the stove, a long shot of the men simultaneously backing out of their driveways to leave for work and the leading lines of their wives dancing at the studio.

The visions Alice has after returning from the desert are jarring, cutting from Victory to greyscale images of women dancing in annularity. Accompanied by these visions are whispers and ominous ambient noises, which are masterfully crafted and emit a feeling of unease.

These sequences are the most captivating moments of the film. Unfortunately, the work the cinematography and sound design puts into Victory’s world-building crumbles when Styles appears onscreen.

Pugh is a difficult act to live up to — she’s proven herself to be a stellar actress through her performances in “Midsommar” and “Little Women.” Styles proves Pugh’s talent is even harder to match when you’re sharing a screen with her.

From the beginning of the film, Styles is at a disadvantage. It’s difficult to remove him from his reputation as one of the biggest singer-songwriters in the music industry — but it can be done. Lady Gaga proved it was possible with her roles in “A Star is Born” and “House of Gucci,” so why was it so difficult to do with Styles?

The fault lies in the film’s writing and Style’s acting. Despite being one of the main antagonists in the film, Jack’s screen time lacks any depth. While we spend most of the film with Alice and grow attached to her, Jack’s character is flat and lacks any semblance of personality. Had we gotten the opportunity to grow more fond of Jack, the plot twist would have had a greater impact.

Admittedly the reveal that Jack had forced Alice into a false reality as a means of achieving his fantasy life was one nobody saw coming. It’s a bold move to turn one of the most beloved celebrities into an antagonist

However, it could have packed more of a punch if Wilde had taken the time to delve deeper into it. Ultimately, Wilde attempts to provide commentary about feminism, the patriarchy and involuntary celibates, but it’s hard to pinpoint what she is trying to say.

Unfortunately, “Don’t Worry Darling” is yet another convoluted psychological thriller that tries to mimic groundbreaking films like “Inception” and “The Truman Show,” but just leaves viewers unsatisfied. However, it’s one of the better ones and is worth watching for Pugh’s acting and its cinematography alone.

If you’re going to see this one in theaters, catch up on the behind and scenes gossip beforehand and go with as many Styles fans as you can. After the watch party, listen to the latest episode of The Daily’s Dose podcast, where Jaden Oberkrom and friends unpack the movie’s hits and misses.

Despite its shotty pacing and poor acting, at the end of the day Styles was right — “Don’t Worry Darling” definitely felt like a movie.

Maddie’s rating: 3.75/5

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

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Madeleine Moore

Madeleine Moore

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