Darling, We're Worried
2022 was a year for anticipated new releases in cinema, but few were as hyped up as Olivia Wilde's Don't Worry Darling, starring Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll, and the world's biggest pop star, Harry Styles. With a budget of $35 million, and a legion of fans eagerly waiting to see Wilde's follow-up to Booksmart, expectations were running high for the film. However, when the reviews came in, millions were shocked to see that the year's most anticipated film only garnered a measly score of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes and 48/100 on Metacritic. So what happened to Don't Worry Darling? Is this really the film we'd been waiting for?
Don't Worry Darling is one of those films that had fans before it even had a trailer. Production was carefully tracked by media outlets and paparazzi, who would write articles and sneak photos on set so that fans at home could catch a glimpse of this elusive, long-awaited thriller. The film was marketed as a mixture of The Stepford Wives and Get Out. Audiences only got more excited once they found out that pop superstar, Harry Styles would be playing a major role, his first since Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk in 2017. When the first official trailer was released I can remember seeing it plastered all over Instagram and Twitter. The film looked very stylistic and professional. Everyone was on the edge of their seats, but was that anticipation justified?
Sadly, no. I'm not sure if the expectations were too high, or the on-set conflicts marred the film in the eyes of audiences, but Don't Worry Darling was a major letdown in every sense. The story is often confusing, and the non-linear editing style only exacerbates the problem. The dynamic cinematography by Matthew Libatique is one of the film's greatest aspects along with Florenc Pugh's lead performance. However, much to the dismay of every teenage girl who came to the theater, Harry Styles' performance was...less than satisfactory. While there are some great moments of suspense and the screenplay by Katie Silberman offers some unique, powerful commentary on society and gender roles, it's just not enough to save the film from itself. Overall, Don't Worry Darling is a visually beautiful film that will subvert your expectations, but it relies too heavily on a ridiculous, convoluted plot, inconsistent editing, and underwhelming star-power. This wasn't a film I went into planning to dislike, unfortunately that's just how it ended up. From what I've seen, it appears that I find a lot more to enjoy in Don't Worry Darling than most people, but that's not exactly saying much. Still, I can't help but wonder if all the negative reception this film got is partially due to the drama that seemed to haunt production,
Roughly a month before the film's release date, Don't Worry Darling broke the internet again, but it wasn't for any of the right reasons. Rumors of unprofessional behavior on set began to arise, and a picture was forming of director, Olivia Wilde being a bully and a hypocrite. Apparently her and Pugh would get into "screaming matches" on set and there was a slew of drama surrounding Shia LaBeouf's departure from the project. (He was initially supposed to play Harry Styles' role of Jack Chambers). LaBeouf even supplied Variety magazine with a video that Wilde had sent to him privately where she stated the following: "I feel likeI'm not ready to give up on this yet, and I, too, am heartbroken and I want to figure this out. You know, I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo, (Pugh) and I want to know if you're open to giving this a shot with me, with us." This came as an icy shock to audiences, who at this point had heard the rumors that Pugh was extremely uncomfortable working with LaBeouf on set. I, was more shocked to find out that Shia Laboeuf was apart of the cast to begin with, for multiple reasons.
Olivia Wilde's career as a filmmaker relies quite heavily on female empowerment. We saw this in her directorial debut, Booksmart, and we see it even more in Don't Worry Darling. The very plot of the film centers around female domesticity, gender roles, and the societal pressure to conform. However, when it comes to this film, Wilde has betrayed her feminism in two major ways. The first of which was casting Shia LaBeouf. You'd think while making a feminist film, it would be a priority not to hire anyone who currently is being sued by a woman for sexual assault, battery, and emotional distress. I can absolutely understand why Florence Pugh wouldn't want to work with him, what I can't understand is why he was ever attached to a project that boasts such a strong reliance on feminism and believing women.
Wilde also made it a point to show oral sex in her film, and make the audience "realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure." This could be easily seen as a feminist act, however this came at the expense of Florence Pugh's comfort. The actress told Harper's Bazaar this year, "When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it...it's not why I'm in this industry."
Perhaps there is a fair case to be made about the reception of Don't Worry Darling being twisted and mangled by the on-set conflicts and cast drama but even when all of that is cut out of the equation, the film is still a swing and a miss. It reeks of wasted potential and missed points. Regardless of your opinion on the film, I think we can all agree that it's important to practice what you preach, and adhere to the morals you put on screen. Do better next time, Ms. Wilde.