Review of the film, Don’t Worry Darling, and a recap of what has happened with the cast off-screen…

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You may have already heard the buzz (off-screen) about the cast of the feature film, Don’t Worry Darling, but you may wonder: are all the controversies and videos like that about “Spit-Gate” and “Miss Flo” more interesting than the movie? Before answering that question from my world, after seeing the film before its release, let’s go over the real-life incidents that happened off-screen. Firstly, it was reported that in 2020, during production of Don’t Worry Darling, that the Director and supporting Actress, Olivia Wilde, supposedly mentioned to Variety that actor Shia LeBeouf, who was to play the starring role of one of the main characters, Jack, was fired. Shia LeBeouf fired back and mentioned that he “quit” two days after a video, which Olivia sent, and he added that the real reason he quit was because her “actors & I couldn’t find time to rehearse.” Shia released the video to Variety, where Olivia was addressing him, seemingly referring to bad blood between him and actress Florence Pugh, who plays the main character, Alice. Florence was performing opposite him as Jack’s wife in the film. Olivia says in the video: “You know, I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Miss Flo, and I want to know if you’re open to giving this a shot with me, with us. If she really commits, if she really puts her mind and heart into it at this point and if you guys can make peace — and I respect your point of view, I respect hers — but if you guys can do it, what do you think?” So, Shia denies getting fired and does not blame his departure on Florence, whom Olivia addresses with an attitude as “Miss Flo”, and it becomes a game of he said/she said, while the video catches eyes social media, leaving views wondering if they don’t get along or not. That is debated on the internet especially when at times, Olivia and Florence were seen in the Venice Film Festival weeks ago avoiding each other, except for when Olivia applauds on announcement of Florence’s performance. That is after recent sources have reported that supposedly there was a “shouting match” between the two on set. While it has been suggested that the triangle between Shia, Olivia, and Florence is one of no love lost, Olivia told Stephen Colbert on his late show which aired days ago: that she has respect for Florence. When asked if Shia was fired, she mentioned that he had to be replaced because he could not get along with Florence. Therefore, their contradicting versions carry on…and the triangle expands to a pentagon when footage emerges about more cast members. Superstar Singer and Actor, Harry Styles, replaced Shia LaBeouf to play the role of Jack and since production to the present, he has gotten non-stop media coverage about his relationship with Olivia Wilde. Speculations run wilder than Wilde’s supposed rants, leaving fans wondering: Are they or are they not together? Then when the supporting actor is revealed as the one and only stellar, Chris Pine, who plays the villain (named Frank) in Don’t Worry Darling, he is seen in interviews alongside Harry appearing to be bored and spaced out about Harry’s talk. Then when Chris appears in the Venice film festival, looking like a younger version of Val Kilmer with his long hair, and he takes paparazzi-like photos of Florence, who is Olivia’s supposed “nemesis”: a video would go viral shortly after, at some point when Harry Styles is taking a seat, because it is seen that Harry spits before he takes a seat next to Chris, with some media sources implying that is revenge from Harry for Chris taking “Miss Flo’s” side, among other theories. Whether Harry intended to spit on Chris or not, the incident known as “spit-gate” is discussed in the news and almost all media outlets. Chris’ Rep denies it, at least as an ill-will spit towards Chris, even though Chris is seen in the video reacting, surprised and even laughing at the unexpected spray from Harry. To stir the pot or show off his comedic skills, Harry shares in a concert, some days later, that he came from the trip after admitting to “spitting on Chris Pine”. There were memes poking at the oddities of the festival, stirring from Chris Pine’s hairstyle, his spaced-out facial reactions, his supposed taking Florence’s side and his taped reaction to smiling after the biological spray landed on him. There were even memes about his looking away when Harry would talk on interviews. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I think all the incidents were blown out of proportion and for the record I admire the actors. Tensions could not have been so bad because after all-they did get through finishing the film (except Shia, who at least made his truth be told). Ultimately, If they wanted attention, they certainly all got it…and no matter what they are banking on people to see the film as a result.

So, without further ado, here’s my take on the movie. Don’t Worry Darling is within the thriller genre realm but is with mixed with drama and has some touches of horror, which I noticed had captivated the audience due to moments of suspense. The story starts with a happily married/young couple, Jack (played by Harry Styles) and Alice Chambers (played by Florence Pugh), who are newly moved into a paradise-like and exclusive community called Victory (filmed in California), which is founded by Jack (played by Chris Pine). What is revealed next comes with a warning of (spoilers* ahead); so, don’t say I didn’t warn you. While the town of Victory is a dreamy place to live in the 1950s and Jack appears to be the very luring leader who convinces those families in the community, mostly couples, to follow his ways and rules to live in everlasting bliss: there are strict rules and the husbands have to work on this experimental town to fund their stay. These conditional rules, including one rule that forbids them to not go to headquarters, makes an uneasy Alice curious as to what is going on. It is when she sees some of the wives feeling a little off mentally, including one friend of hers, Margaret (played by Kiki Lane), who has dark lash outs about Frank, to the point where she is warning her that there are things wrong: that Alice goes to headquarters, especially after she sees an airplane crash from the HQ area, which is out of bounds. After a tiring journey, Alice climbs up the glass doors of headquarters, she looks through the glass but the movie screen skips to optical illusions and her waking up in her bedroom, keeping what she saw or what is real a mystery. As Alice and Jack try to move on from the oddities by carrying out their routines and Jack shows his intentions of aiming to get promoted in the tech side of work as well as having a baby with Alice, the cracks she notices of this perfect life and the suicidal nature she experiences, which are similar to Margaret: causes Alice to question Frank and what experiments may be happening with them. It was revealed, in my opinion, too early but soon after, when Alice has illusions and a panic/episode, that Frank is playing mind games with her. Frank tells Alice privately in dinner gathering that Margaret may not be so unbelievable after all and that he challenges her to keep pushing him so that he could get a kick out of her antics of defying his rules. Alice, shocked but courageous, decides to poke holes on the married couples’ coincidental memories and circumstances of landing at Victory. She wants them to feel trapped in a bubble. That causes tensions between the couples until Shelley, wife of Frank, (who is played by Gemma Chan) and Frank himself, go on the defense. When the couples leave and later Alice is at a breaking point, she asks her newly promoted and charming husband, Jack, to escape and leave Victory behind with her, for the betterment of their future together. Despite the love and support shown to Alice by Jack, he betrays her by recruiting the clinical crew to grab her by force from the getaway car before they depart. After capture, Alice is strapped and “treated” in a facility. She is returned back to Jack, as if her memory was wiped and the past few incidents hadn’t happened. But the turning point is when Alice recovers flashes of memories in a different world, her real life in a more modern time, that which she lived in normalcy. That leads her to pressuring Jack to answer what has truly been happening in their past lives. When Jack finally is pushed, he confesses that their world as a couple is truly a fabricated romance that was forced by him and Frank for Alice as a virtual reality to please him: Alice freaks out. Jack reminisces as he is shown in flashbacks to be a geeky creeper who views Alice’s real life as a nurse unsatisfactorily and decides to trap her into a bed, feeding her eyes with a drippy virtual world. It suggests that Jack and Frank have been tapping with the wives’ minds and giving them false illusions all along. They are behind the Victory projects’ mind control operations. Upon hearing this, Alice struggles with Jack both physically and emotionally but then she stabs him. Neighbor, friend, and fellow housewife named Bunny (played by actress and director Olivia Wilde) arrives at their home and discovers Jack’s body. She confirms to Alice that Jack is dead and she reveals that she is the only housewife who knows that she is in this virtual reality. Bunny confesses that she has stayed because she loves her life at the Victory project and could spend time with her kids, whom are only alive there. Alice is horrified that she is trapped alongside other wives there against their will, and when Bunny advises her to leave, she rushes out of the house to alarm the others. While the wives try to heed her warnings, Alice flees, which leads to a wild goose chase via car racing between her and Frank’s henchmen. Alice is aware that she is wanted for the murder of Jack and she courageously banks on her car drifting skills (which she had mastered alongside Jack previously) to beat them to headquarters. But just before she could reach the glass windows of HQ, she gets an illusion of Jack, who caressingly holds her, as if an attempt to stop her. She decides to let go and touch the glass screen. Then there is a fade to black and the sounds of heavy breathing. The ending has sounds of Alice gasping to breathe and it hints that Alice has finally woken up from the virtual reality. But what happened to all the others remains a mystery, leaving it to be an open-ending, of sorts.

After the film ended, I noticed that for the first time after seeing many pre-screenings before: I did not hear any applause, despite the movie getting 4-7 minutes of applause or a standing ovation at the previous Venice Film Festival. Some audience members were confused and called the film disturbing but I took the liberty to help answer some questions about the mysteries revealed of the ending. I know that I certainly did not regret seeing the movie and others did not leave early; so, those were good signs. On the observation of gender roles, both on and off set, there were touches of women empowerment shown, from the screenwriting and directing credits for females, to the role played by British-Asian actress, Gemma Chan, introduced before as Shelley, who ends up stabbing Frank and ending her entrapment. It’s symbolic to women’s civil liberty that Florence and Gemma portray strong women and the characters they played break free from their captors. But the story is does not appear to be fully original as the it is like The Stepford Wives meets The Matrix. Regarding review of diverse casting and story representation: it was disappointing that the cast is neither diverse enough, compared to representing populations in its location, the U.S., nor the few minorities casted are on air enough time to majorly contribute to the story. Then when there is one Black and beautiful supporting actress who plays the role of Margaret (Kiki Layne), sadly she is chosen to play a stereotypical crazy person who is subdued at some point in the plot, which in real life adds to the statistics (over the years) of what sometimes happens in stories to characters played by Black, Hispanic, and Native American artists, to name a few. They are typically portrayed on a negative light or have a doomed fate. It is sad to see that at times the statistics fall back like a pendulum. But if ever there is help wanted to turn the tide, then I know many in diverse groups who want to be a part of the change.

In the meantime, I believe the film has it’s entertaining moments, including: 1) the sexy chemistry and illusion of love between Alice and Jack, 2) the old Hollywood escape to beautiful Californian scenery that makes you wish you could live there, and 3) the plot twists mounting to the tragic truths, resulting in a suspenseful race for survival, up to when Alice has to take a stand. In addition, the performances of Chris Pine, Harry Styles, and Florence Pugh stood out more so than the others to be brilliant as their roles stir up the challenges that the racy triangle have in the story. But some scenes dragged for too long on the suspense, making this film approximately 2 hours and 3 minutes and the sounds, at times, where so annoyingly loud, with buzzing and breathing sounds that could have been replaced with fluid music instead. In short, if you like psychological thrillers with an open ending, has good-looking or well-known stars casted, and you appreciate beautiful cinematography set in pretty locations, then see Don’t Worry Darling.

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Keila is a Screenwriter, Film Director, Producer, Content Writer, Poet, and Event Organizer, who has years of diverse experience as a professional. She also serves as an Associate Producer for TV/Film/Animation production company. Keila is promoting her award-winning film. She has other projects on her slate. Keila also chairs a board chapter role in the NAMIC. Keila speaks English and Spanish. Her hidden talents include singing, acting, editing, and cooking. Hobbies include traveling, being on a production set, watching film, attending events as a fashionista, and helping others.