Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 3 minutes, Director – Olivia Wilde
Housewife Alice (Florence Pugh) begins to suspect her life may not be as idyllic as it seems when she starts to witness odd goings on hidden by the company who own the town and neighbourhood.
There’s clear order and design to the 50’s-style suburban look of Victory. Everything appears to move like clockwork with the men going to work in the desert just outside the borders of the town and neighbourhood each morning while their wives stay at home putting in the hard, yet thanked-for, work of cooking, cleaning and occasionally going to the nearby shops – as long as they stay in the safety of their surroundings everything will be fine. Or at leas that’s what they’re told. Everything may not quite be as it seems when housewife Alice (Florence Pugh) begins to notice strange and out-of-the-ordinary goings on which disrupt the flow and order established over the last 900+ days of her life in Victory.
At first these sightings are generally dismissed by Alice as thoughts created by Kiki Layne’s Margaret, who for a while has been questioning what’s really going on around her. However, as she starts to have strange visions and sees men in red jumpsuits trying to cover up dark revelations about Victory the world around her begins to descend into chaos – much mentioned as the enemy of everything the Victory Project stands for. It takes a while for these developments to find a real flow as we’re initially introduced to a world which feels as if its providing developments and further information to questions which it hasn’t yet asked. This particularly being the case as life continues to move on with little question from the protagonist for a good portion of the third act despite what we’re seeing and hearing.
Perhaps the feeling largely comes from the fact that much of the idea of what is being hidden from both the audience and the housewives of the film lacks substance. A number of ideas throughout the film never quite lift off from the initial point, or simply continue with it for the duration of a scene without bringing in anything new. It means that the thriller aspect that feels as if it should be present never quite picks up and lacks a sense of tension or dramatic stakes.
As Alice begins to break down and tries to piece things together, especially at a dinner party in front of a group of her friends, her husband (Harry Styles – who initially doesn’t get as much to do as you might think, although the film does occasionally stop to allow him to shout) and the head of victory, Frank (Chris Pine), things begin to come together more. When the film deals with more than one thing at a time, or at least plays with different elements and ideas in a scene, it strikes a better chord and begins to stir its sense of mystery. It feels as if more is going on, especially in developing points beyond a more general idea. What we get beforehand certainly has its watchable moments, but it never truly takes off to truly involve the viewer until some of the third act twists and turns.
A series of events which fluctuate between slight obviousness, in terms of basis, and interest. Interest eventually manages to overpower and lead the final stages of the piece in an engaging way – although it may not be to everyone’s tastes – largely helped by the staging of the reveals and a rather thrilling chase sequence; perhaps the highlight of the film. It’s wrapped in further progression and basis for Alice’s worries, which lacks in the early stages of the film despite what’s shown around her, and indeed the conflicting mindset that Alice starts to have. Basis may take a while to properly arrive, yet Pugh, as expected, gives a strong leading performance throughout. Surrounded by a good supporting cast, including Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, Kate Berlant and director Olivia Wilde, all of whom do what they can with not-always-fully-developed characters.
While it might take some time to get its elements together to allow for a better sense of flow to come into place there’s still some engagement to be found within Don’t Worry Darling. It’s helped along by its performances, especially Pugh in the leading role, with the cast trying to bring things above the occasionally single idea format of a scene. We eventually get more, and the film as a whole has enough to interest and engage throughout its just over two hour run-time, but you do find yourself wishing for more detail almost from the opening stages.
Don’t Worry Darling occasionally moves above its lack of substance, partly thanks to its performances; especially Florence Pugh. Working best when dealing with more than one thing at a time it gradually picks up a better flow and gains interest and engagement through its developments.