I’m Worrying, Darling

Im Worrying, Darling

Erin Detlefsen, Writer

Don’t Worry Darling has plagued popular culture for months — even before the trailers dropped. The sophomore, feature-length, directorial project of Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling has been on the general public’s mind for a while, but is it worth the hype? 

The male lead, Jack, was ultimately portrayed by Harry Styles, but Shia LeBeouf was originally cast as Jack. Wilde publicly stated that the reasoning behind this was that LeBeouf gave her an ultimatum between him or Florence Pugh, who plays Alice, the lead of the film. LeBeouf has been accused of domestic abuse and sexual harassment in the past, and considering the film is marketed as a story of female empowerment, casting a known abuser didn’t look good for Wilde. 

Leaked footage of a video sent to LeBeouf shows Wilde begging LeBeouf to stay in the production. Wilde pleads “I’m not ready to give up on this [Don’t Worry Darling]” while urging LeBeouf to stay. This contradicts her original statement that he was fired for his predatory behavior, and instead insinuates that he left the production on his own volition.

Additionally, LeBeouf has made public statements that he chose to leave the production. In an email exchange with Wilde and Variety, LeBeouf claimed “You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors and I couldn’t find time to rehearse” on August 17, 2020.

Over two years later, and the drama surrounding this film has only grown. Although there have been countless rumors from set and public relation nightmares surrounding the film, there are two that have impacted the general public most.

First, Harry Styles’ alleged relationship with Olivia Wilde. Prior to his casting, Styles played a minor role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017) and had a guest appearance on a 2012 episode of ICarly. He has been a successful artist for over 12 years, but that success had not yet translated to the screen. Nonetheless, Wilde cast him as Jack. The relationship between Wilde and Styles appears to have surpassed that of a director/actor and into a more romantic territory. 

Although never confirmed by either party, numerous paparazzi images have captured the two in romantic settings — such as the private yacht ride in July, 2021 where the two are seen kissing off the coast of Italy or her appearance at numerous Love On Tour, Style’s massive arena tour for his latest album “Harry’s House,” shows. 

This relationship started right as Wilde divorced Jason Sudekis, and Wilde was even served during a premier for this film — generating massive media attention for the film. 

Many see their relationship as a public relations stunt, because the excessive documentation of their relationship seems unrealistic when compared to other celebrity couples. It is not uncommon for management to create or encourage relationships between celebrities, afterall, it not only gets the general public talking about the project they are promoting, but it adds a sense of humanity to people who are often viewed as God-like because of their status in society. 

As mentioned previously, Florence Pugh is the star of this film. Pugh has been working her way through the industry, starring in Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019) and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (2019). At only 26, she has already been nominated for an Academy Award, and has won two BAFTAs. 

Despite her role as the lead actor, Pugh is avoiding Don’t Worry Darling as much as is contractually possible. On July 21, 2022, the second trailer for Don’t Worry Darling dropped. Instead of posting about it on her socials, like most of the cast, she instead posted about Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, set to be released in 2023. This was interpreted by many as a direct slight at Don’t Worry Darling

In addition to her lack of marketing the film, she also chose to not attend the panel at the film’s premier, hosted during Venice International Film Festival. She was at the red carpet, yet arrived late. This is almost unheard of, and a powerful statement by Pugh — she does not want to be associated with the film, despite her status as the lead.

This withdrawal from the film is likely attributed to her strained relationship with Wilde. In the leaked video sent to LeBeouf, Wilde states ”I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo,” in regards to Pugh’s suspected qualms about acting alongside an abuser. The term “Miss Flo” came off as rude to many fans, who thought it was disrespectful and a patronizing way to address Pugh. 

Photographer Rebecca Corbin Murray (@rebeccacorbinmurray) posted several photos of Pugh following the leaked video with the caption “Miss Flo” on September 5, 2022. Considering the close friendship between Pugh and Murray, the caption is not as slight at Pugh, but instead a statement on Olivia Wilde. It shows the resilience of Pugh, to make light of a situation where her superior mocked her and spin it into an opportunity to promote gorgeous photos of herself. 

In terms of the actual film, it is often believed that art should be separated from the artist, so this review will only pertain to what was presented in the 123 minutes of media released on September 23, 2022.

Don’t Worry Darling was extremely disappointing as a viewer. The main character, Alice, becomes aware of the absurdity of her situation within the first five minutes of the film. This prevents the audience from feeling any form of shock at the twist midway, because they never were coaxed into perceiving their world as the utopia it is trying to present itself as. 

Don’t Worry Darling takes place in a utopia; a desert community where women are all essentially housewives and men go to work together on “The Victory Project.” The details surrounding the Victory Project are strictly confidential, where husbands cannot even tell their wives where they go every day. Despite the secrecy, the lives of all the inhabitants are perfect, until things slowly start to fall apart around Alice. With nobody to confide in, she must figure out if her world really is falling apart, or is it all just in her mind? 

Overall, this film was so extremely disappointing. There are many motifs and symbols that appear throughout the film that are not explained. An example of this is the red plane shown on the cover of the film. This plane keeps showing up, but there is no clear reasoning for its appearance. Distractions like this take away from the total viewing experience, because it distracts the viewer instead of its intended purpose of keeping the audience invested in the film. 

A positive note pertaining to this film is Florence Pugh’s performance. Her devotion to the lackluster script was evident. She was able to do as much as possible, considering the general fragility of her character. Though no fault of Pugh’s, her character often acts in ways that are not substantiated, there is no obvious explanation as to why she lashes out yet the audience is supposed to root for her. Pugh still manages to captivate the audience’s attention, and her despair presents itself as genuine throughout the entire film.

Pugh was able to pick up on small nuances in Alice’s story, whereas her counterpart, Styles, often fell flat. An obvious example of this occurs at the beginning of the film, where Jack makes a small quip to Alice that is meant to be sarcastic, but actually just presents as confusion and mean. This doesn’t fit Jack’s character, and although that might be intentional, it just feels like an example of Style’s poor acting ability. 

Although the film tries to rationalize Style’s subpar acting, it is not done in an effective way. This leaves the audience struggling with a fantastic lead actor working alongside a mediocre actor — diminishing the talent of both Styles and Pugh. 

This film would not feel like such a big disappointment if it had not been a center of attention for so long. Although Wilde is an acclaimed director and Pugh is a very notable actress, it would not have been so anticipated without the media frenzy that surrounded the film. This frenzy created a lot of anticipation, starting over two years before the release. This anticipation will only grow for the general public, to a limit that is almost always unobtainable.

Florence Pugh fans will like the film, but those who go in after just learning about it through the news or fans of Harry Styles will surely be disappointed.