Plot: “A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community worries that his glamorous company could hide disturbing secrets.” -IMBD
Review: Dear reader, I have made several attempts at crafting a review for the film, Don’t Worry Darling. Each attempt so far has spoiled the ending or has found me wavering on my final score of this film. This is unlike me. Walking out of a theater, I usually have some sense of how I will review a film. I am always certain of its grade. But not this time.
Then, I realized something. It has now been a full 48-hours since watching this film. I am still wrestling with a thesis that feels open to interpretation. An internal debate over its reveal is still waging inside of me. Doubt and unease about scoring a film like this remains. This dissonance and this discussion with myself and others is the point. This is a divisive film. We will debate it for years to come. It invokes arguments and disagreements. It is an adult film for adults longing for something more than a passive experience.
Before beginning, I should also remind you it is not my job to defend this film. Many who come across this review will have wildly different opinions from mine. My job is to wrestle with this film’s central thesis and grade its execution. Beyond that, this film should stand on its own two feet.
Within moments of the opening scene of this movie, you will realize something is odd. As you meet characters and wrap your head around the setting, you will realize things are not as they seem. This feeling will stay with you for the next two hours. If you are anything like me, it will follow you home and creep into your mind for days following the film.
With a little work, you will understand the rules of the Victory Project. The housewives are living a Republican’s fever dream as they maintain the home, cook dinner, and live to satisfy the sexual whims of their husbands. The men leave every day to do top secret work; work so secret they cannot share it with their wives or each other. This is a contained utopia. The project provides food, home goods, clothing, essentials for living. The rules holding this place together are simple. Don’t leave the contained zone and don’t discuss your husband’s work.
As neighbors gather and couples talk, you will get a sense of a cultish devotion to the founder of the Victory Project, Frank (Chris Pine). At a pool party in the backyard of Frank’s home, Pine delivers a brilliant, yet terrifying monologue that will make anyone who listens to true crime podcasts sit up and pay attention. For Alice (Florence Pugh), it is this experience where her questioning begins.
Florence Pugh gives the performance of her young career in this film. Once she escapes the pool party, she will work to unravel the mysteries holding this story together. Thanks to brilliant writing and direction by actor/director Olivia Wilde, we as an audience will question everything Alice sees and does. Can we trust her? Is she descending into madness, or is there more to the story?
And this is where I must stop. To proceed any further, would risk spoiling the plot of this movie. Instead, I want to close by analyzing the thesis of this film and the execution of explaining that thesis.
We find ourselves far removed from the 1950s. Gone are ideas about a weaker sex, or a sex that is subservient to another. This film, in my estimation, attempts to wrestle with toxic masculinity, gender roles, the meaning of work, and our need for a messiah. It explores all this through the lens of a plug-in utopia. When the cracks in that utopia reveal themselves (pay particular attention to a dinner party scene near the end of the movie), we get a sense of how much progress we have made. We also come to understand the delusion of control.
If the ideas listed above are what this film intended for me to wrestle with on the car ride home, then it achieved its mission masterfully and nearly flawlessly. I am open to debates about its dismount. I am open to debates about originality and borrowed concepts, but I will never forget how this film made me feel. Nor will I forget what it forced me to reconsider.
Be good to each other,
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