Dynamic Florence Pugh Captivates in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – A sure hand behind the camera and a dynamic performance from Florence Pugh help “Don’t Worry Darling” pull off an extremely difficult balancing act. This isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it inspires the kind of impressions and ideas that you will still be talking about a week later.

We begin with a picture of a 1950’s suburban utopia, the kind of scene seemingly culled from images of the old LIFE magazine. The houses and their perfectly manicured lawns are a mid century modern design fever dream. Jack (Harry Styles) drives off in a fancy sports car to work at something called “The Victory Project.” At the same time, his wife Alice (Florence Pugh) acts as the idealized 50’s housewife … gossiping, cleaning, and making sure her man has a nice dinner on the table when he comes home from work, while she sucks back four martinis during lunches at the pool, and going on shopping sprees to occupy her time.

Don’t Worry Darling
Photo credit: Warmer Bros.

We soon learn that this is no ordinary suburban cul-de-sac. It’s more like a company town, where Victory has designed and controls nearly every element of life as they know it. There are standards to be upheld, classes to take and lessons to learn. The organization is led by Frank (Chris Pine) – one part business visionary, one part cult guru – who demands complete and total discretion and devotion among his employees and their families. He inspires with talk about the greater good and changing the world, while elevating his own standing to just short of the Supreme Being.

Alice and Jack are a childless couple who can’t keep their hands off each other, love drinking too much and having entirely way too much sex. But Alice begins to suspect, based on troubling flashes of half forgotten images and a can’t-remember-can’t-forget song ear worm, that all is not what it seems to be.

While the sex scenes may get the young fans of Harry Styles into the seats, it is the story, mood, tension and performances that will keep people talking about this film. Actor Olivia Wilde, in her fourth film as director, patiently and expertly lets things slowly build to a simmer and does so with sure technique. As Pugh-as-Alice continues to pull at this nagging thread, the film keeps us guessing.

Frank (Chris Pine) in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’
Photo credit: Warmer Bros.

Florence Pugh leads the way with her dynamic and captivating performance. Harry Styles shows he’s not just a pretty pop star, turning in solid dramatic work of his own. And Wilde (who also has a small role) uses two actors best known for comedy, Nick Kroll and especially Timothy Simons (“Veep”), to great dramatic effect.

While the final act doesn’t entirely work – with one too many plot twists that I won’t spoil here – the movie manages to build enough suspense and momentum to carry it over the finish line. There’s plenty of fun and suspense to give audiences something to chew on, and that’s a welcome respite from the celluloid stories that seem to vanish from memory mere seconds after you leave the theater.

“Don’t Worry Darling” opens in theaters on September 23rd. Featuring Florence Pugh, Olivia Wilde, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll, Timothy Simons and Gemma Chan. Screenplay by Katie Silberman. Directed by Olivia Wilde. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


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