Film and drama Opinion

Paradise is burning, but Don't Worry, Darling

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What seems to be a perfect 1950s community hides a dark secret and when one resident begins to learn about the truth, her whole world collapses. Digital editor Dan Jensen gets paranoid over the new thriller from director Olivia Wilde.

BACK IN 2019, actress Olivia Wilde showed true promise as a director with her debut, Booksmart. Now she’s branched out into the realm of thrillers with Don’t Worry, Darling, a project that may have proved slightly ambitious.

Set in an idyllic 1950s community, a young housewife, Alice, begins to suspect things aren’t what they seem. Before long, her curiosity leads her down a rabbit hole where she learns a dark secret about the truth behind the town and the people residing in it.

Don’t Worry, Darling features a terrific cast led by the sensational Florence Pugh, who has yet to deliver a flawed performance in her career thus far. This girl is heading towards Oscar victory in the not-too-distant future and is the absolute highlight of the film. Co-starring as her husband Jack is Harry Styles, who has moments in the film that prove he’s capable of shedding the image of “the guy from One Direction”. However, his overall performance comes across as a little mixed, but the moments where he sheds restraints and really gives it everything are a joy to watch.

Rounding out the main cast are Wilde herself, playing the token best friend character, and Chris Pine as the founder of the Victory Project, the code name for the paradise community in which the story takes place. Wilde does an adequate job with the limited range of her role, whereas Pine plays his character to its slimy and evil best.

Immediately, the most noticeable facet of Don’t Worry, Darling is the jaw-dropping visuals. The cinematography and production design bring an almost over-the-top portrayal of the ‘50s to the screen in glaring technicolour and the film features some stunning camera movements and angles. No matter what’s going on in any scene, it’s a total pleasure for the eyeballs. Some scenes are played out with synchronised choreography that is sure to bring a smile. From the film’s opening scene, it does its best to hook the viewer right in.

Then comes the mystery and suspense to keep you even further engaged. And it comes on thick! It doesn’t take long before strange things start to happen that leave poor Alice wondering what the heck is going on around her and the audience is right there with her. The intrigue peaks by the end of the second act before things start falling apart a bit, but more on that later.

The plot does begin to feel reminiscent of better films such as Rosemary’s Baby, Get Out and The Truman Show, which rather works to the film’s detriment as it never quite reaches the heights of those movies. It also borrows heavily from The Stepford Wives and the viewer is left with a feeling of déjà vu at having seen it all before. But again, everything just looks so dazzling that you’re still kept on the end of the line waiting to see what happens next.

No spoilers, but the third act begins with a massive “WTF” moment that will grab your attention in a huge way. This is where the secrets behind the plot start to come to the surface and the film ventures into sci-fi territory. Unfortunately, it also comes off as rather muddled and utterly underwhelming. Wilde uses the sci-fi genre as an excuse to throw plausibility out the window and make up her own rules, with the film’s conclusion feeling totally unsatisfying.

There are strong feminist themes throughout Don’t Worry, Darling but none are presented in a particularly subtle way. Still, any time a spotlight is shone upon women’s issues within a dominant patriarchy, it’s worth taking notice. There are also themes of the perils of wishing for a better life and being happy with the things around you, but again, none are delivered with any delicacy and even the dialogue feels a little forced at times.

Don’t Worry, Darling feels like a film that should have undergone a rewrite or two as in the end, it feels like all that talent and superb production were wasted on a somewhat flimsy script. There also feel like a few plot threads that are left hanging by the end, which viewers are welcome to try and figure out for themselves, but seem to deserve more of an explanation. For fans of paranoia thrillers, it’s definitely worth a watch. It’s not a bad film by any means, but there are certainly better options out there.

Don't Worry, Darling is now available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, as well as finishing its theatrical run in cinemas across Australia.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @DanJensenIA. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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