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Opportunities for women directors have only increased in recent years, a development that has taken too long. One of the beneficiaries of this turnaround is Olivia Wilde, who made her directorial debut with the well-received film in 2019 book smart. Now she’s back with her much-anticipated (for various reasons) second film, don’t worry darling.

The film stars Florence Pugh as Alice Chambers, who lives in a utopian little desert town with her husband Jack (Harry Styles), who works for a company called Victory. The city has all the hallmarks of an idyllic version of the 1950s, from the style of the houses to the cars to the way wives make love to their husbands. But it’s immediately clear that something is wrong with the town, especially since everyone seems to think that company boss Frank (Chris Pine) is some kind of infallible person.

Olivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don't Worry Honey
Olivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don’t Worry Honey

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Alice begins to feel the cracks in the city’s veneer and begins to test the boundaries that everyone else holds true to. Her suspicions only deepen when another woman goes missing, leading everyone she confides in to believe she’s losing her mind. Trying to figure out what is real or not drives her to do many things that threaten the whole town’s way of life.

Again working with book smart Screenwriter Katie Silberman brings Wilde a mysterious and suspenseful film that’s as far removed from the exuberance of her previous film as possible. There are times when the story becomes too puzzling for itself, but Wilde seems to know exactly when to add a new layer to keep viewers interested in where the story will take them next.

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Wilde and Silberman continue to explore gender politics through this well-told allegory. The actions of Alice and the other women (including Wilde, Gemma Chan, Kiki Layne, Kate Berlant and others) seem like Stepford women-ish, but they also act in ways that are inconsistent with people who have been brainwashed. As mysteries are finally revealed, the story takes on a deeper meaning of male insecurity and female empowerment.

Chris Pine in Don't Worry Honey
Chris Pine in Don’t Worry Honey

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The technical team behind the scenes adds a lot to the mood of the film. The production design by Katie Byron is impeccable and cinematographer Matthew Libatique shot it and the desert landscape superbly. Of particular note is the score by John Powell, who uses unconventional sounds and voices to create music that elevates every scene it is associated with.

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Pugh has been a star for a number of years and she shows once again why she is held in such esteem. She brings just the right amount of fear, confusion, and anger to her character’s development, making her compelling throughout. Styles does well in his biggest role yet and never comes across as just a singer pretending to be an actor. Pine is also great as the creepy but charismatic Frank, who demonstrates skills any good cult leader needs.

don’t worry darling contains a lot more than what it shows on the surface, making it a great second film for the talented savage. With her proven ability to hop between genres with ease, she should have many more opportunities to tell stories on the big screen.

don’t worry darling opens in theaters on September 23rd.

Don’t worry darling | Official trailer


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