Alice (Florence Pugh) is living every woman’s fantasy of being married to Harry Styles in a 1950s idyll, but like Meghan Markle before her, soon finds that marrying Harry comes with a certain amount of unwanted surveillance.
The casting of Styles proves something of a masterstroke, not because he can act but because a) people will watch him do whatever (judging by his accent) and b) the backstage fallout garnered more publicity than this vanilla thriller ever warranted. That is not to say (as many have) the behind-the-scenes drama is more interesting than the Styles-over-substance of the film itself. If anything the metanarrative enhances an otherwise played-out sci-fi premise. The assumption that we should care about celebrities’ interpersonal relationships adds an extra layer to the movie’s critique of a blinded, slavish devotion to the American Dream.
Don’t Worry Darling‘s more deliberate elements are less effective. If you have seen The Village, The Stepford Wives, The Truman Show, Pleasantville or Home I’m Darling, the story is obviously only going in one direction. These un-revelations render the drama tedious in progress and nonsensical in hindsight. Alice grows suspicious of where her husband is going every day, begging the question of why no one thought of an answer, instead of leaving a series of clues and mysteries that lead her to the truth. Maybe it will be explained in the sequel, where the entire cast and crew are robots in case they all kill each other. Just kidding. There won’t be a sequel.
This is however one of those bad films that should have been a lot worse based on the production stories (see also Waterworld and Terminator 3). It has class (Pugh), camp (Chris Pine) and kitsch (director Olivia Wilde), with pristine production values and a soundtrack that includes Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. And the point (when it finally gets there) about incel culture is starkly made, a more interesting evisceration of men than Midsommar managed. The movie targets those who yearn for a period of female subjugation, when women were expected to be a cook in the bedroom, a whore in the garden and apparently incapable of creating any tension.