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In Review: Don’t Worry Darling

Bad Cinema at Its Finest or Simply…Bad Cinema?

Pre-booked tickets in one hand and smuggled Tesco snacks in the other, St. Andrews’ students flocked to The New Picture House cinema last week to see Olivia Wilde’s highly anticipated Don't Worry Darling.

Set in—what at first appears to be—1950s America, the residents of Victory, California flaunt flawless hair dos, candy coloured cars and pristine houses. However, beneath the town's sunny facade lie the cracks and seedy corruption of the Victory Project: the mysterious mission that occupies the men of the town during the day whilst their wives prepare roast dinners, vacuum carpets and iron shirts in their honour. The film follows doting wife, Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh), as she begins to suspect that something sinister lurks beneath the surface of the perpetual honeymoon she shares with her husband Jack (Harry Styles) and the utopian paradise in which they reside.

Despite this intriguing premise, Don't Worry Darling fails to deliver the excitement that the costume design, cinematography and star-studded cast ignite, and although Wilde’s screenplay attempts to emulate the thrill and suspense of psychological thrillers such as The Firm and Midsommar — it just doesn't. The twist-reveal feels rushed and incoherent — a product of a leisurely plot that values visuals over actual information — and ultimately the storyline itself is left steeped in plot-holes and inconsistencies. The only saving grace of the movie is Pugh’s (as expected) spectacular performance, as she encompasses the emotional depth of her character and makes the most out of her lines with fiery conviction. The same cannot be said of Styles, who offers a shallow, pantomimical and cringe-worthy performance that many audience members remarked reminded them of Hero Fiennes Tiffin in After

However, despite this being said, this is not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy my time spent in Screen Two.

Simply, the opportunity to watch Harry Styles take a bite out of a carrot so enthusiastically, perform a tap dance in the midst of the film’s most serious scenes, and—most notably—be transformed into a greasy haired, moustache wearing Reddit user, made for shamelessly captivating cinema. And whilst I agree that Hollywood roles should be awarded on merit rather than fan following, solely hearing the live reactions of my fellow audience members,whose female to male ratio resembled that of my English lectures, proved Styles’ viral press tour statement wrong: Don’t Worry Darling didn’t feel ‘like a movie’ but an immersive cinematic experience. Stand out audience responses included the eruption of laughter when Styles’ character calls his wife Amy a ‘good girl’ and the round of applause awarded when Shelley (Gemma Chan) finally stabs her creepy husband Frank (Chris Pine) with a kitchen knife.

So is Don’t Worry Darling bad cinema at its finest or simply… bad cinema? For Directioners, TikTok addicts and those even vaguely acquainted with the singer of ‘Watermelon Sugar’, I would argue in favour of the former: owing to the fact that Wilde has not only provided the perfect source of entertainment for a Friday night in, but supplied a lifetime’s worth of memes (cue Styles spitting on Pine at the film’s release). However, for those unfamiliar with Styles I would advise sitting this one out and saving the extra cash. Don’t Worry Darling will leave you with little more than a case of whiplash and perhaps the urge to cook fried eggs for breakfast the following day.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Illustration: Lauren McAndrew

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