WARNING: Includes spoilers for Don't Worry Darling (2022)
Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll and KiKi Layne
Directed by: Olivia Wilde
Runtime: 123 minutes
Rating: M (for mature audiences only, multiple terrifying images and subject material)
Release date: September 5, 2022 (79th Venice International Film Festival) and September 22, 2022 (United States)
WandaVision 2.0. That's the tweet. That's basically what this movie is, and rather than it being a rip-off of a rather mediocre Marvel TV show, it's WandaVision 2.0 in a good way. Like, a really, really good way. As in a mind-bending, topsy-turvy, absolutely shocking, slap-your-hand-over-your-mouth kind of movie. It's unsettling, it's got graphic spice, and the music is great. The entire film is just a suspenseful trip catapulting us all the way to the end, and the entire time, you're just waiting for the ball to drop, for the secrets to be uncovered. But before I go on about how great it is, allow me to actually give you a bit of background as to the actual premise of the story.
The story is set in an idyllic suburban desert town called Victory, in California, during the 1950s. It's truly a beautiful place. Every morning the men roll out of their driveways to work at what is known as "Headquarters", working on the "Victory Project". Their wives are left to tend to their children, clean their homes and gossip by the community pool until their husbands come back from work in the evening. Our main female character, Alice (portrayed by Florence Pugh of Black Widow and Puss in Boots 2 fame) is married to Jack (portrayed by Harry Styles; yeah, remember the One Direction kid from back in the day? He's now an actor and a singer, does it ever drive you crazy just how fast the night changes?) Get it? One Direction song quote? If you got it, you got it. If you didn't, well - listen to some One Direction songs. Spotify and YouTube are free for a reason, people.
I digress, though. Back to the actual review. The town of Victory seems innocent enough, until we meet Margaret (portrayed by KiKi Layne). Margaret is troubled, deeply so, much to the dismay of her husband, whose failing control of his wife attracts the wrathful attention of the town's founder, Frank (portrayed by Chris Pine of Wonder Woman and Star Trek fame) and his wife Shelley (played by Gemma Chan, remember Crazy Rich Asians and Marvel's The Eternals?). We later learn that Margaret's husband was fired from the Victory Project and booted from Headquarters after Margaret's very public outburst at a party at Frank and Shelley's house. After we meet Margaret, things began to fall apart at the seams, and it is then that Alice questions the peaceful suburbia town life she has. It first begins when she gets off the train line at the very outskirts of Victory and walks through rocky desert terrain up to the location that Headquarters is located. She promptly passes out after viewing some very strange visions of pinup girls dancing in a choreographed manner and wakes back up in her home to see Jack cooking dinner for her - and very much failing.
She confesses she saw visions after she found Headquarters, and he dismisses her claims, accusing her of being crazy. Several days later, as Alice goes about her repeated daily routine, Margaret calls, begging her to listen, telling her that the visions that Alice saw - Margaret saw them too. Alice dismisses Margaret's claims, only to see Margaret moments later standing on the roof of her home in a white nightdress before slitting her throat and falling to her death. Alice runs to help her, but several men in red jumpsuits drag her away. The seeming "death" is then covered up, and while Alice continues to believe that Margaret is dead, the resident doctor of the town, Dr. Collins, tells Jack and Alice that Margaret is in the hospital with only a few stitches to her throat wound. After stealing Margaret's medical file, and finding nothing except a bunch of redacted information, Alice continues to undergo hallucinations and what seems like reflections of her past life.
It begins to come to a tenuous climax after a dinner party at Jack and Alice's house, after Jack recently received a promotion in the Victory Project company that Frank runs. While Jack entertains the other guests, Alice returns to the kitchen to continue preparing the food, and Frank all but admits that Alice's suspicions about Margaret and Headquarters were indeed correct. She attempts to expose him over dinner, but fails miserably, with Frank turning the tables on her and insinuating that she is crazy. With her once close friends now very much against her and having aroused Frank and Shelley's ire, she turns again to Jack, and begs him to leave Victory with her that evening. He seems to comply with her begging, but right as they are about to leave, the same men in red jumpsuits come and drag her away. She is then put under electroshock therapy by Dr. Collins and effectively "rehabilitated" to abandon her hallucinations and paranoia.
The treatment seemingly works, and she is returned to Victory, back to her loving husband and her friends. That is, until Jack reveals to her that Victory is not real. Frank charismatically tricked Jack into putting her into the simulation that is the town of Victory and leaving her there, and she finally figures out that the hallucinations were indeed snatches of her old life, where she was a nurse named Alice Warren, living with a disgruntled and unemployed Jack. Within Victory, Jack could live out the life he'd always wanted, all with Alice under his thumb as a docile housewife. Jack attempts to convince Alice to stay, but when she smashes a glass over his head, he ends up dead, much to Frank's anger. Alice escapes to the rocky desert where she first saw Headquarters and the visions of the pinup girls, managing to kill Dr. Collins in an old-timey car chase and several others in red jumpsuits. As the remaining jumpsuit-clad men pursue her, she is sucked into Headquarters and the screen cuts to black. Seconds later, as the credits roll, we hear Alice gasp for breath, seemingly awake.
No one is really sure what the ending means. I firmly believe she escaped the simulation that is Victory, and it brings a semi-satisfying ending to an incredibly unsettling film. The music, costuming and pacing of the film is so wonderfully done and it builds up well to the ending. I wouldn't say Olivia Wilde is a great director, though. She's certainly got some weak spots in her filmmaking, chiefly picking a singer (choosing Harry Styles of all people to play Jack) as one of the main characters. Harry's an okay actor, but he's not very good, especially when pairing him with an A-lister like Florence Pugh. They don't really have that much chemistry beyond a few kisses and touches here and there, and the one spicy scene on the kitchen table.
I think she relies on unsettling angles and scenery far too much for us to actually get engrossed in the story, or actually really care for the characters. I think that perhaps the sinister inner workings of Victory became evident far too quickly. It only took about five minutes into the film for things to start getting weird. Plus, everyone's stories and actions were way too similar for it to be an actual working town. I would have preferred some more mystery up until the halfway point.
However, I did like the background exposition of Alice's memories outside of the simulation, and it was very well put together. The lighting and detail to each and every scene is very well done. For a film that had much controversy and drama unfolding before its premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival, it's done pretty well for itself. Don't Worry Darling happened to gross over double its film budget, which is impressive for a small film like this that happens to be in a very niche category of film. All that aside, it's a good movie. A little too unsettling at times, and the sinister overlay is a bit rushed into the spotlight, but other than that, its very good. It doesn't have as many mental layers as other psychological thriller films like American Psycho, but it's still a nice movie to watch if you want to get a bit shaken up in the evening.
Definitely don't watch psychological thrillers in the evening, though. I kind of don't recommend it, and I've done that twice now. Terrible idea if you're someone that's got a vivid imagination and is horribly prone to nightmares.
About the Creator
Hi!! My name is Taylor.
I'm big on writing about fanfiction, movies, TV and of course my own original stories (mostly fantasy stories, featuring bad-ass female characters)
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