Don’t Worry Darling : The American nightmare

Premiered at the Venice Film Festival, Don’t Worry Darling was released this Wednesday, September 21. Directed by Olivia Wilde, the feature film starring Harry Styles alongside Florence Pugh is a stiflingly colorful thriller.

The wait was long since the cast was announced in 2020. After Booksmart, telling the story of two teenage girls’ adventures, Olivia Wilde launches into a thriller with a Truman Show feel.

The movie follows a couple, Jack (Harry Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh), who live in an isolated community into the California desert to participate in the mysterious “Victory Project”. In the midst of the 1950s and the American Way of Life, Alice sees her daily life as a housewife turned upside down.

When Desperate Housewives turns into hell

The alarm clock rings : the wives prepare breakfast, tie their husbands’ ties and the men drive to work. In this suburban neighborhood, the routine is quite comfortable. The men go to work, the women take care of the house, and everyone meets up every once in a while for a night of drinking with the neighbors. Nothing could disturb the habits of these happy inhabitants. “Life could be a dream“, sings the music.  The lyrics are innocent and dreamy, “If only all my precious plans would come true, If you would let me spend my whole life loving you, Life could be a dream, sweetheart“. However, the dream of Don’t Worry Darling hides some dark nightmares : the strange behavior of Margaret, one of the neighbors, draws the attention. If everyone in the community thinks she is crazy, her words soon arouse Alice’s suspicions. And, like Bluebeard’s wife, she opens the door that is forbidden to her.

With its 1950s Desperate Housewives vibe, Don’t Worry Darling is a film about control. In reality, the “Victory Project,” with its perfect colorful suburbs is far from a quiet community. It is a prison run by the husbands. In the beginning, Jack and Alice are in perfect love, the viewer is almost jealous. But as the film progresses, the power dynamics become more and more apparent. Close to Get Out, the film is like a Black Mirror episode with a feminist slant. Forced into this virtual reality by their husbands, the women of Don’t Worry Darling have no say in the matter. They, who had less time to devote to the couple in real life, find themselves at the service of it thanks to the Victory project.

A plot that remains of the several film adaptations of Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives. The film shows very idealistic images of the chic suburban life of the Victoy project. At the same time, the few scenes of real life lack color. Our present world is dark, almost dirty. Alice spends her life at work, too tired to take care of Jack, who stays behind his computer, the very cliché of an unemployed man : long and greasy hair, pyjamas, dull skin… During his free time, Jack surfs on forums with misogynistic speeches based on “it was better before”. This is how he discovers about the Victory project led by Frank (Chris Pine), a new Andrew Tate with a neat hair. The thinking of Jack and his companions, however, is cruelly lacking in logic : if Alice couldn’t find time for him because of her work, he is now the one who goes away all day to give them the means to stay in this illusion of a perfect life. As what, although he’s deeply in love, he remains a misogynistic and selfish man whose whims cost the second sex a lot.

A paranoid thriller

Although it is a bit long to start, the film is nonetheless rich in entertainment. Olivia Wilde’s direction is meticulous. The shots are perfect, the cars are lined up to the millimeter, nothing is out of place in this seductive setting. The universe and its aesthetics are designed to be visually pleasing. Everything is so well arranged that all these identical houses — which are reminiscent of those in Vivarium (2019) with its Magritte-like neighborhoods and sky — quickly become oppressive. 

Spotted by the director for her role in Midsommar, Florence Pugh gives another remarkable performance in Don’t Worry Darling. Strong and moving, the actress carries the film on her shoulders and shows a complex character in the grip of disillusionment. Alice gradually gives in to paranoia and takes the viewer with her, helped by the soundtrack that makes each scene more immersive. At the service of anxiety, the a cappella voices raise the tension while the screen vomits its colors on the spectator’s retina.

For his part, Harry Styles is not as bad as some of the clips from the film would suggest. His way of playing, sometimes a bit cringe, is explained by the clumsiness of his character who tries to illustrate himself in a world where he does not belong. Indeed, from a big loser in a bathrobe, Jack becomes the man to whom everything smiles: professional success, a couple madly in love, a tight community… All at the expense of his wife, locked in the reality he chose for them.

As for the secondary characters, they are unfortunately forgettable. From Chris Pine (Star Trek, Wonder Woman) to Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians, Eternals) and Douglas Smith (Big Little Lies, The Alienist), they remain in the background while the main duo takes all the light.

Plagued by a lot of drama since its promotion began, Don’t Worry Darling is leading the box office with $19.2 million in its first weekend in theaters. In conclusion, bad press has made good publicity, and at Sounds of Series, we encourage you to go to theaters to enjoy this disturbing thriller.