Don't Worry Darling and the Failure of Beauty


Don’t Worry Darling is a beautiful film. Olivia Wilde’s much talked about—not necessarily for the right reasons—sophomore directorial stint is a stunning visual treat that plays with nostalgic idyll and hypnotic imagery coupled with impeccable sound design to deliver an experience that’s both enchanting and unsettling at the same time.

Wilde championed Don’t Worry Darling as feminist, especially when talking about the sex scenes between picture perfect couple Jack (Harry Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh). One could definitely argue that a man going down on a woman on the dining table or anywhere else, for that matter, is something that should probably happen more on screen, but just because it’s not an unrealistic and inadvisable thirty-minute blowjob doesn’t make it feminist. In fact, as the story unravels, Don’t Worry Darling feels more and more like the misogynist gaslighting it purports to expose and condemn. 

Even if we try to ignore the noise around the production, and anyone not living in a tightly-controlled company-sponsored 1950s development would find it hard to avoid all the unsavory press surrounding it, Don’t Worry Darling feels more empty than it should. It’s almost like beautiful pastry that’s full of air and sugar that only ruins your appetite but still leaves you hungry. 

Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures.

The visuals are absolutely lovely, in large part thanks to Academy Award-nominated (for A Star is Born) Fil-Am cinematographer Matthew Libatique. The rhythmic kaleidoscopic patterns, circular motifs, and repetitive imagery throughout the film lulls you into a false sense of security the same way Alice is being gaslit into thinking everything is fine even when she starts to suspect not all is well.

But all is not well because the film builds up so much anticipation and when the big reveal happens it’s like letting all the air out of a balloon. Florence Pugh is scintillating, single-handedly carrying the film on her award-winning shoulders. Pugh is almost reason enough to see the film, but expectations must be kept to a minimum because the grand reveal isn’t so grand as it is a straight-up grift. When the twist is finally revealed, we the audience, much like the film, will all feel like TS Eliot’s Hollow Men, as the story ends not with a bang but a whimper.

More than the noise surrounding Don’t Worry Darling’s production, the real tragedy of the film is that it’s an extremely beautiful but empty experience. It’s basically a protracted Black Mirror episode with a twist that doesn’t seem proportional to the buildup. It’s a shame because there’s a nobility in the intent. The sensory experience is excellent, with really solid performances from Pugh and even Styles, who doesn’t quite match his co-star’s screen presence, but isn’t completely diminished by it, either.

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Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Don’t Worry Darling demonstrates, ultimately, the failure of beauty. Just like the picturesque Victory housing where Jack and Alice live their seemingly perfect life, beauty and perfection is merely an illusion. The film is an illusion. Wilde attempts to expose and attack the deeply ingrained misogyny in the traditional home structure where wives stay home and husbands go off to work, but the reality behind the Victory Project also inadvertently makes men out to be heroes, albeit terribly misguided ones. 

The film waylays audiences with red herrings to prevent them from cottoning on to the truth, but it’s unsatisfying to ultimately learn that those things don’t mean anything. There’s no real reason why there are tiny earthquakes or empty eggshells, or any of the other strange phenomena that Alice experiences other than to tick the ‘psychological thriller’ box. Don’t Worry Darling is an unintentional parody of itself, a beautiful but otherwise empty viewing experience.


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Hugo Zacarias Yonzon IV
Zach Yonzon is a cake artist and co-owner of Bunny Baker
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