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Don’t Worry Darling

***
2022

‘…although none of the elements quite click apart from Pugh’s performance, Don’t Worry Darling is still worth a re-watch once you know the punch-line…’

While it’s a word that I hear every day, recanting is something that critics don’t do often enough; there’s a number of reasons why a film might go down the wrong way, and in the digital age, where opinions, people and news can just be deleted or amended, why shouldn’t we self-correct? Was I so overwhelmed with my delight at making it through Warner Bros anti-piracy screening process that I over-rated the last Matrix movie? Perhaps; I’ve just knocked it down a star or two to be safe. So returning for a second view of Olivia Wilde’s much maligned sci-fi drama, a second opinion is due; I previoursly rated this as a two star (rotten) on RT, and I’m replacing that review with this one, bumping it up to a 3/5 (fresh).

Why? The most latent prejudice I see on my daily beat is against women; there’s a glut of female-driven projects right now, and Don’t Worry Darling hit screens pre-loaded with gossip; director Wilde was accused of falling for her star (One Direction’s Harry Styles) and letting the whole project get out of control. This was the party line fed to journalists, but it’s a bit of a red herring; has a male director ever fallen for their star or let a project get out of control? It’s almost de rigeur to do so, and yet Wilde was trashed with a clear double standard. While there are some major plot-holes and editing issues in Don’t Worry Darling, not least when Wilde appears on all fours and out of breath at the start of a key scene without explanation, there’s certainly enough here to merit a cult following, and so, without the aid of some spoilers, we proceed.

Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh) and her husband Jack live in the Victory project, a suburban utopia with a 50’s vibe. Alice begins to notice that reality is fraying around the edges, and starts to suspect something is wrong; we gradually realise that Alice is living in a simulated life, controlled by men and specifically her husband. The Victory Project in fact allows men to drug and subjugate with wives during the night, and leave them within the simulation while they go to work and make cash to pay for this expensive augmentation. Alice rebels, but Jack and the other men have got the whole thing sewn tightly up…

Don’t Worry Darling is no masterpiece, but there is something striking about the way it represents female alienation as being both entrenched and justified by male malfeasance; Alice’s best friend (Wilde) happily thrown herself into the simulation because, it’s later revealed, the kids who are alive in the simulation are dead in reality. That’s a potent and disturbing idea, largely unexplored here in a narrative that’s hampered by un-asked for stripping from Dita Von Teese and a lot of duff monologue from a wooden Chris Pine. But although none of the elements quite click apart from Pugh’s performance, Don’t Worry Darling is still worth a re-watch once you know the punch-line; the clues are all there, even if they don’t quite add up the first or even second time around.

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    • Maybe I should have stuck to my guns, it I do think it works better once you know the rather half-cocked punchline…

  1. I still haven’t gotten around to seeing this yet, but I am looking forward to it. Just looked so Stepford Wives to me and that makes it been there-done that. Maybe there is some substance to this under the surface I didn’t count on…

    • I think I was a little hasty in my trashing of it; while the film is a bit messy, it’s undeniably fun to watch…

  2. You lost me at “but there is something striking about the way it represents female alienation as being both entrenched and justified by male malfeasance;” I think I’ve been reading too many comic books. Guess it’s true that they DO rot your brain after all. Man, I feel stoopid this morning.

    • It’s a new year, and I’m turning around a few pieces within 24 hours to get the cogs working. What am I trying to say? Spoilers aside, this film portrays a world where men are baddies and women are right to rebel against them, since men are keeping them as slaves anyway. In terms of stoopid, it’s not you, it’s me, I referred to Donald Sutherland as Pleasance this morning, which should be enough to have me carted off to the repair shop….

  3. Hot pokers, pliers and poison honey have worked wonders for the Bearpope in getting heretics to recant. Have you thought about trying any of those when watching a movie? That way you might have to recant less often.

    • Because of my thirst to understand the world through the gift of cinema! Whether this film is good or bad, it’s kinda fun to watch, and since I was screening it for someone else, I thought it worth returning to for a second look.

    • I had the same question! Good for your for revising your opinion. Some films are better once you know the “punchline” as you call it. I’ve many times rewatched a film I thought I loved and found it wanting; why should’nt the opposite be true? Now I’m wondering if I have to revisit some films I’ve enjoyed trashing……

      • I’m still ruminating, but I think a film should be reassessed if an error was made in creating the first review. I think the negative hype affected me in this case; this film might not work, but it’s certainly an interesting failure…

  4. Don’t have to revise my opinion, he said cockily, I had it down for three stars from the start but was more taken with Harry Styles, as you may recall, than Pugh and so taken I was one of the very few – even hard-core Styles fans gave it a miss – to watch My Policeman at the cinema. Though I’m not sure it would be worth a re-watch.

    • Your pioneering work in the field of Harry Styles research is beyond criticism. On a second watch, he was worse than it remembered; his accept when he pronounced orspital is like Robin Asquith. But you got there before me; this might not be a great movie, but it’s got enough style and intrigue to certify fresh.

    • Sigh. What’s your problem, Bunty? I watched it again and thought it was better. Can’t critics change their minds?

      • Well, sure, but I just thought the original review had more energy than the sequel, stricter pacing, a surer grasp of mise-en-scene. The sequel came out of the gate kind of flat and then sort of lost me at the end.

        • Sigh. You have to move with the times. I am allowing the original review to remain to spark debate.

          • I’m not saying I wouldn’t read a third review if you decided to make a trilogy out of it, but I’m just not sure there’s enough her to build a franchise on.

            • I’m publishing a revised review of this film every day for the next year. That’s how it is, and you’ll just have to lump it. An attention to detail that few critics could dream of matching.

              • Will you be doing holiday-themed reviews, like The Don’t Worry Darling Christmas Special Review? Or mash-ups with other reviews, like The Don’t Worry Darling review as written by Chevy Chase? You’ve gotta keep it fresh.

                • Next films to be revised are Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, Worry Darling, British sex comedy Don’t Just Lie There Darling Say Something, plus Julie Christie in Darling ( Don’t Worry), and Doris Day in Move Over Darling. Is that enough?

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