'Don't Worry Darling' fumbles its ending, but Florence Pugh's talent is undeniable
- "Don't Worry Darling" has fantastic acting and a pull-the-rug-from-you shocker, but it doesn't land the ending.
- Olivia Wilde shows growth as a director following her previous hit movie "Booksmart."
When you hear the title "Don't Worry Darling," you'll likely think of all the rumored behind-the-scenes drama featuring the likes of Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, and Olivia Wilde.
But seeing "DWD" won't clear up anything about what really went down on set. Instead, you'll just have more questions about the movie than you started with.
Following years of grinding as an actor, Wilde has been riding high as a director-to-watch after receiving critical acclaim for the 2019 movie "Booksmart." The success of her directorial debut led straight to a bidding war for "Don't Worry Darling," which Warner Bros.' shingle New Line Cinema nabbed, thanks to a promise of an exclusive theatrical release. (The movie hits theaters on Friday.)
From a spec script by Carey and Shane Van Dyke that found notice when it appeared in the 2019 Black List, the annual highlight of top unproduced screenplays, "Booksmart" screenwriter Katie Silberman came on to do a rewrite.
The story itself isn't that groundbreaking: a young woman named Alice and her husband Jack (played by Pugh and Styles, respectively) seem to have the perfect life as they drink and screw on the regular in a palm-tree-lined paradise.
However, it's not all that it seems as Jack drives off to an unknown job every day as his wife slowly loses her mind.
The movie is held together by captivating performances — hinged by Pugh, who is a tour-de-force here — and Wilde's choices on how to tell the story
Thanks to the talents of cinematographer Matthew Libatique ("Requiem for a Dream," "Black Swan," "A Star Is Born") and production designer Katie Byron ("Booksmart," "Zola"), Wilde is able to display a lush canvas for her actors to play in. The movie's look and the world we're pulled into are major highlights.
Alice and Jack Chambers live in a community called Victory, where all of the men, including Jack, work on the "Victory Project." Alice and all of the other wives have no clue what that is, other than its founder Frank (Chris Pine) is revered by all.
As the husbands are off doing God knows what, the wives keep busy with household duties, going to the pool, or buying new outfits, before getting dinner and drinks ready for when their significant others return home.However, Alice keeps having strange visions and finds herself humming the melody of a song she doesn't know. Then things get out of hand when she sees one of her friends commit suicide, but no one else seems to worry about it.
Meanwhile, Jack gets promoted and Frank sees himself as some kind of god.
Alice is bewildered, and honestly, so are we as the audience, which is why we all forge ahead in hopes of getting answers.
But there aren't many to be had. And this is where Wilde's talents fall short.
Though I respect her for trying to stay away from the many cliches that can be found in a psychological thriller, she outsmarts herself by the end.
The last 30 minutes could have been one of the best pull-the-rug-from-under-you reveals I've seen in some time, but there were too many things left open-ended
I really want to give away the movie's big spoiler, but I know it's best to let you go in fresh.
What I will say is that, compared to the original Black List script, Silberman (with, I would assume, notes from Wilde) made the movie more cinematic and woman-focused. The Victory Project was an addition, as well as Pine's character. Compared to the script, the movie is now much more subtle about who the movie's villain is and what their motives are.
Pugh is fantastic; she can go from a state of erotic bliss to completely petrified at the snap of a finger. The movie is very much an exploration of women navigating a man's world and Pugh is fascinating to watch as the leader of a revolt against that power struggle.
Pine and Wilde (who plays Bunny, one of the other wives) also give great performances, and Styles holds his own opposite Pugh, although he still needs to develop his acting chops.
Despite all this, I needed the ending to land better. I don't know if it was a creative choice or if Wilde needed to keep the movie around two hours long, but there are things in the ending that fail to connect with the rest of the movie, leaving too much unexplained. It frustrated me for days after seeing it.
But I am a fan of Olivia Wilde movies. This is a lot of growth from "Booksmart." I look forward to seeing what she does next.
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