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Don't Worry Darling


Stars: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, Timothy Simons, KiKi Layne

Director: Olivia Wilde

Despite the catchpenny title, this is no romcom, but rather a slice of science-fiction with distant relations in such films as The Stepford Wives and Seconds. So the concept is interesting, but something has gone seriously wrong with the execution.

In the middle of the desert sits the Victory complex, a veritable Stepford in which the wives stay home making the same breakfast and doing the same chores - they all say they come from Philadelphia, Baltimore of Chicago - while their husbands drive off each morning in convoy to their work across the desert in a giant mound, the inside of which we never see. Nor are we ever told what exactly is going on at Victory, whose clean-cut, all-commanding boss Frank (Pine) casts a creepy benevolence over every gathering.

The whole existence seems to the wives perfect, but Alice (Pugh) is disturbed by the apparent suicide of Margaret (Layne) whose son disappeared in the surrounding desert. Later, on a bus ride, Alice sees a plane crash; in going off to find the wreckage, she finds herself at Victory HQ, where odd things happen. Back at the village, Alice becomes increasingly rebellious and we see that she was formerly a surgeon whose struggling husband Jack (Styles) was brainwashed onscreen into taking them both to Victory.

Unfortunately, little of this makes any sense, given that there are few solutions on offer and character motivations are constantly confused; and it drags on for more than two hours which, considering it offers so little at the end, seems like a bit of a cheat.

Direction by co-star and co-writer Wilde shows ambition while remaining much too slow, especially in scenes involving Alice and Jack together. Pugh's American accent is right on the mark, as is her performance, even though she's fighting a losing battle. As her vis-a-vis, pop idol Styles is better in some scenes than others.

The film itself remains a stylish shell, although the soundtrack is a dream of memorable popular music.

David Quinlan

USA 2021. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers (New Line). Colour by Color Collective.
122 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 20 Sep 2022