Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Oh, darling I’m worried

Olivia Wilde’s psychological thriller “Don’t Worry Darling” transports viewers to an idyllic 1950s society and leaves them in a mental funk
Photo courtesy of Don’t Worry Darling official Facebook page.

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Watching the film “Don’t Worry Darling” on a Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. might be the definition of “Sunday scaries.” Directed by Olivia Wilde and starring the “sexiest man alive,” Harry Styles, this movie was bound to cause a stir.

The film is set in a 1950s utopian community in the Californian desert. Every morning, the women wake up, cook sizzling bacon and eggs for their spouses and send them off to work with a kiss. There is no clear indication of what the men do for work; the only vague answer they give their clueless wives is that they are working on the “development of progressive materials.” The women’s days continue by scrubbing bathroom tubs and vacuuming carpets that do not appear to have a single speck of dirt. After ballet class and gossiping with friends they return home to cook a delectable roast for their hubby; as anti-feminist as a community can get.

The characters are all a part of the ‘Victory Project,’ a place designed to change the world by establishing a perfect community. This cloaked tyranny is ruled by Frank, an unsettling and intimidating figure, played by Chris Pine. Frank is idolized and respected within the community, and the citizens constantly fight for his attention and praise.

This is demonstrated at a dinner scene when two men quickly yank their neck ties off after Frank arrives without one; they are loyal, obedient pawns in his scheming game. He radiates power and control, and the community he built is comparable to a cult. The members preach, “there is beauty in control, grace is symmetry…we move as one.”

The protagonist, Alice, played by Florence Pugh, is hopelessly devoted to her spouse Jack, depicted by Harry Styles. As Alice starts to experience psychosis, she finds her contentment within the community and within her relationship become uncertain. Her consciousness struggles to grasp the reality she is trapped in, and she perceives the environment around her as a threat. In one scene, the walls literally start to close in on her, symbolizing the sense of suffocation she feels.

Patterns of control, symmetry and repetition escalate throughout the whole film. The men all leave home in their cars at the same time each morning, as their wives simultaneously blow kisses. In a recurring motif, Alice hums the same tune in multiple scenes, alluding to some unknown aspect of her past. The repetition of this mundane routine represents what the Victory Project thinks is domestic bliss. But are the people actually happy?

Who wouldn’t love sipping on cocktails all day, wearing darling dresses and being married to the perfect man. Alice is the embodiment of 1950s womanhood, that is, until she wraps her head in plastic wrap during a mental breakdown. Spoiler alert: Alice begins to lose her marbles.

Her anxiety, paranoia and fear can be felt through the screen. The loud music, martinis and laughter of a large party scene is a sharp contrast to Alice’s face of fear and tears. Facing her reflection in the bathroom mirror reveals her rising emotions. Who is this version of Alice that stares back at her? She is all alone in this illusion and the people she trusts most, her husband and best friend Bunny (played by Olivia Wilde), only further her craziness.

However, Alice proves to be a character that perseveres. In the final scenes of the film, suspense builds, the plot thickens and blood is shed. Viewers realize that the title “Don’t Worry Darling,” is complete irony.

The final moments feature the vivid imagery of Alice in a pristine white dress covered in red blood walking into her cul-de-sac. The once perfect bubble of existence for the citizens of the Victory Project has been popped. Alice breaks through her domestic role by jumping in Jack’s car and driving towards Victory Project’s headquarters in the desert. A dramatic car race unfolds as Alice escapes the misogynistic society. What seems like hundreds of men in red hazmat suits creep towards Alice as she is moments away from touching the Victory Project’s portal to the real world. Pure blackness and gasps of air conclude the film, signifying Alice waking up in her true body.

There is a lot to unpack in this highly criticized film, especially with its offscreen drama and debates. Wilde’s film, while not being entirely profound, still managed to get under my skin in a chilling and unsettling way. After finishing the film, I stared at myself in the Cinemark theatre bathroom mirror and wondered what if we could all be living in a simulation. Ultimately, Wilde not only directed a movie that left viewers in a mental funk, but she also gave us Harry Styles, Florence Pugh and Chris Pine to fawn over for its duration. I recommend watching “Don’t Worry Darling” for yourself and coming to your own conclusions about the twists, turns and hidden messages scattered throughout.

Olivia Patt can be reached at [email protected].

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