Ever since Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Hollywood has shown a growing willingness to produce allegorical genre thrillers. Peele himself has added two more films to the category with Us and Nope, taking on broad topics like America, social media, and filmmaking while still delivering a gripping story each time. However, not every socially-minded thriller is as well-made or thematically cohesive.
That doesn’t mean those films aren’t memorable. In the case of Don’t Worry Darling, Olivia Wilde’s directorial follow-up to 2019’s Booksmart, the conversations surrounding the film have been dominated by the alleged behind-the-scenes drama that occurred throughout production. As a film, Don’t Worry Darling doesn’t come close to touching the narrative, visual, or thematic perfection of Get Out, but it’s still an unusually ambitious and experimental contemporary studio thriller.
Don’t Worry Darling just made its streaming debut HBO Max. And despite everything you may have heard about it, Inverse recommends that you check it out. Here’s why.
Don’t Worry Darling follows Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh), a housewife who spends her days living an idyllic life with her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), in a midcentury town known as Victory. Alice and the rest of the Victory wives spend their days doing housework and waiting for their husbands to return from work. However, when Alice makes a brief trip out into the desert that surrounds Victory, she begins to experience strange and disorienting hallucinations.
From there, Alice becomes increasingly convinced that Victory isn’t as picture-perfect as it seems. Her suspicions cause her to doubt the very nature of her marriage to Jack and lead her to several horrifying realizations about the lives she and her husband have seemingly built for themselves. Before she can fully uncover the truth of Victory, Alice is forced to engage in a battle of wills with Jack and his charismatic boss Frank (Chris Pine).
Where Don’t Worry Darling goes from there has been the subject of much debate. The film takes several major turns in its third act, not all of which make sense. To the credit of its harshest critics, there are also several elements — namely, its focus on female pleasure — that feel completely ill-considered and out of place.
But while Don’t Worry Darling doesn’t communicate all of its ideas as well as it should, the film is still worth seeking out solely for the boldness of its narrative and the impressive technical craftsmanship on display.
Shot by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Don’t Worry Darling is one of the more visually luxurious thrillers in recent memory. With its lush shades of yellow and gold and its dark, thick shadows, the film is visually inviting in a way that makes Alice’s suspicions about Victory feel all the more visceral and unnerving. Katie Byron’s midcentury production design also fills the scenes with some of the most carefully considered sets that you’ll see this year.
At the center of all the memorable imagery is Florence Pugh. The actress, who’s spent several years establishing herself as a promising star, turns in a genuinely impressive lead performance as Don’t Worry Darling’s justifiably paranoid heroine. Her performance is so good, in fact, that it makes up for many of the film’s narrative issues... and other actors.
While Don’t Worry Darling is far from the best sci-fi thriller audiences have seen recently, it’s still an ambitious and competent genre flick. It’s not afraid to take risks that most films would shy away from, so ignore the drama and judge for yourself.
Don’t Worry Darling is available to stream on HBO Max.