Review: Don’t Worry Darling – Entertaining yet Shallow

Gustavo Damian Danemann Soto, Editor-In-Chief

   Harry Styles. Florence Pugh. 1950s suburban daydream turns nightmarish. Is this Wattpad’s latest viral story? No, it’s September’s most popular film release, though it sure makes a good case for the former.

(In)famous for its rumored set disputes, contradictory cast testimonies, and heavily marketed sex scenes, Actress-Turned-Director Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling somehow justifies its questionable publicity strategies; no film this messy would make its money back without an equally silly (and unbearably loud) discourse surrounding it.

The excitement around the movie, particularly in the teenage circle, was clearly there. Junior Maggie Prell, intrigued by the film’s mysterious and potentially dystopian nature, shared she is “…happy to see (Singer Harry Styles) broaden his creative work further” with the project.

   Yet Styles’ performance sticks out like a sore thumb in a movie full of talented performers. Having replaced Actor Shia LaBeouf early in production (the reasons behind that being yet another debatable unknown in the film’s endless media circus), it’s easy to see what the film was aiming for with the character. This only makes it more frustrating when Styles brings virtually nothing of note to the table. Never does it feel like the popstar understands Jack beyond the constraints of his forced line delivery.

   Wilde swings for the fences with Darling, taking the project in all sorts of directorial directions that may have seemed unlikely upon watching her directorial debut (the undeniably superior Booksmart). Yet here, the picture as a whole is on another technical level, with exciting camerawork, hypnotic sound design, and an exquisite score. Unfortunately, its core is ultimately hollow in thematic purpose.

Clearly, not as much thought was put into the screenplay. With silly dialogue, paper-thin characters, and a twist containing (unironically) hilarious specifics, it’s a shame that Wilde preferred to bluff with the deck given rather than slightly reshuffle it. The film’s attempts at commentary are so uninspiring and eye-rollingly obvious that they go nowhere.

Actress Florence Pugh infuses the lead with equal charm and curiosity, each of which serves as a double-edged sword in her gorgeous, sunny utopia. Easily one of the film’s strongest points, Pugh’s performance is yet another one added to the arsenal of one of Hollywood’s most gifted lead actresses.

There’s much to enjoy about the film’s superficial pleasures, yet even those are far from innovative. Similar to recent films like Last Night in Soho, Darling hinges on the stylistic potential of a subgenre (and era) only to take its most superficial tropes and give them a contemporary, political spin. What follows is an equally disappointing and disjointed work that is too adulated with its own machinations to really do anything with them. It may be the most Instagrammable film of the year, but that’s about as close as Warner Bros.’ latest will come to accolades.