If the behind-the-scenes drama of your film ends up being the most exciting part of the moviegoing experience, then you probably messed something up along the way. Just saying.
Taking place in a Stepford Wives-like community where everything is exactly as it should be (even at times when they so clearly shouldn’t), Don’t Worry Darling follows Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh) as she slowly realizes she isn’t living the perfect life she’s led to believe; far from it actually. After watching one of her neighbors commit suicide, Alice starts to unravel at the seams, with each passing day bringing something new and sinister to her attention, consuming her in a way that she can’t seem to shake or reconcile. Soon, compounded by the odd comings and goings of her husband, Jack Chambers (Harry Styles), the community’s mysterious leader Frank (Chris Pine), and the shifty people surrounding her who insist they’re her friends, Alice’s grasp on reality begins to warp and fracture, leading her to uncover more than a few hidden secrets of a community that never was what it seemed.
First things first: it can’t be denied this film is one visually stunning piece of cinema. From the uncomfortable sterile look and feel of the community Alice lives in to the appropriately unnerving cinematography that only gets wilder the longer things go on to the handful of surreal shots and scenes sprinkled throughout that wow as much as they disturb, Don’t Worry Darling handily succeeds on a technical level in more ways than one, which makes it even more unfortunate that most other parts of the film simply don’t work.
At first, the general aesthetic and tone of this one do wonders to dull the rough edges of the script, yet around the halfway mark of the film, things start to degrade into a mess of a story that doesn’t capitalize on the initial premise one bit. Considering I didn’t have too much of an issue with the first half of what I was seeing as the piece-mealing of weird and unsettling moments was enough to keep me intrigued and invested throughout (along with some great work by the always on-point Florence Pugh, of course), the fact that the narrative falls flat by movie’s end lessened my experience to a point that in all honesty, I’m still a bit annoyed by.
And then there’s the big reveal at the end of it all that I’m still mulling over as I’m unsure about whether I outright disliked it or respected it just enough to appreciate the balls the filmmakers had to pull it off in the first place. Not only did the moment in question come out of nowhere, but when stacked up against the rest of the weird shit happening in the film, it still made no sense. Admittedly, it’s a super cool idea in general but ultimately feels hollow and pointless as the script never left any breadcrumbs along the way to make the reveal feel like something of substance, instead coming across as a bad M. Night Shyalaman twist.
So while there’s a lot to love when it comes to the visual style of this film, most of the performances (not you Harry Styles), and even a few story elements that work well before crashing and burning into the ground, the sum of all of this one’s parts don’t add up to anything worthwhile by the time the credits roll. Despite all of this, I liked a decent amount of what I saw in Don’t Worry Darling, just not enough to call this one a true success from start to finish.