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Don’t Worry Darling Review: Traditional Values

It’s a good thing that Florence Pugh, among her many talents, possesses such a naturally compelling screen presence. Her Alice, as written, is pretty flat and dry as a protagonist. But all Wilde has to do is let the camera linger on her face, hold a second too long as Alice’s mind drifts throughout a typical day of cooking, cleaning, and poolside gossip, and Pugh can handle the rest. Too bad that’s not enough.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is a film that happily drapes itself within the warmth and comfort of ’50s Americana, wrapping layer upon layer of loving, period piece homage like so many security blankets. Wilde, cinematographer Matthew Libatique, and production designer Katie Byron have a blast recreating the iconography of this bygone era, fussing over the clean lines of the time’s architecture, its home décor, and its fashions. All this slavish attention to detail is meant to juxtapose with the persistent, unsettling tenor of the film’s premise. 

From the minute we meet Alice and begin to watch her day-to-day routine — one mirrored by every other woman in the cul-de-sac — listening to the motivational speeches on the radio from their collective husbands’ boss Frank, we can tell that something is just not right. The methodical plot takes it precious time picking away at these misleading appearances, as Alice seems to be the only person concerned by former friend Margaret (Kiki Layne) and her erratic behavior. 

Margaret had some kind of incident involving her now-missing son and her venturing out into the desert outside the town that no one is allowed to go to, but everyone else is content to ostracize and ignore her as much as possible. Except Alice. Alice starts to look at her surroundings differently, especially after seeing a particularly traumatic moment with Margaret the rest of the town denies even occurred. 

She begins to zone out at dance practice while making meals and scrubbing walls. But why is she so concerned? She lives in a beautiful home with a handsome husband who drenches her with physical affection first thing when he gets home from work every day. Maybe her husband’s boss is a bit dramatic on the local radio every day. No, she has no earthly idea what her husband does at work — what, in fact, anyone‘s husband does at work — but everyone adheres to the same nebulous but motivational agitprop Frank asserts over the airways. They’re all special and motivated, and they’re going to change the world.

But Alice can’t stop asking questions, probing further, making herself the same kind of outcast Margaret was. By the time she actually ventures out into that same desert and sees things she’s not meant to see, we know it’s over for her, even if we don’t yet know why.

But that “why,” well, that’s really the crux of the problem, isn’t it?



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