Culture

Don’t Worry Darling review: High concept thriller is a stylistic tour de force

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles live the perfect life in Don't Worry Darling

A stylistic tour de force from director Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling is a high-concept thriller that mesmerises with technicolour photography and peerless Fifties production design.

Palm Springs doubles for the experimental desert community of Victory. 

Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) are the latest residents. Like the other men in town, optimistic Jack works for the mysterious Victory Project, whose CEO is the svengali-like Frank (Chris Pine); while the men commute in pastel befinned automobiles, their manicured wives sup cocktails on manicured lawns. 

No one knows what’s going on inside the Victory Project. We’re told only that it’s something to do with the “development of progressive materials.”  Anyone care for a Manhattan?

On the surface, this utopian lifestyle has everything going for it – until Alice gradually realises that all is not as it seems.

A poolside sequence from Don't Worry Darling
Cocktail time!

Visually, the movie is a treat. Oscar nominated cinematographer Matthew Libatique, known for his work with Darren Aronofsky on films like Pi and Black Swan, artfully frames this suburban fantasy, making full use of the period architecture and sun bleached surroundings. 

The result is gloriously cinematic, and well worth seeing on a premium screen.

There’s barely a frame which doesn’t feature Florence Pugh, and she propels the drama with effortless ease. Co-star Styles exhibits frantic charisma, while Chris Pine delivers a particularly oily turn.

An idealised Fifties living room in Don't Worry Darling
Production design is a celebration of all things retro

Food is a recurring visual motif (so much frying!), and the production design, by Katie Byron, a comparable feast. The stylised decor in Alice and Jack’s condo, replete with designer furnishings and period appliances, will have you hankering to turn back the clock. 

Their home is just one of a variety of standout locations certain to delight aesthetes: the Doll House nightclub, the Volcano House, (Chris Pine’s) Kaufmann house being others.

Florence Rugh is running up a dusty hill in Don't Worry Darling
Don’t Worry Darling makes great use of its desert locations

There’s more conspicuous fashion on display here than in any recent genre outing, Arianne Phillips costume design evangelising the glamorous post war housewife aesthetic.

Phillips apparently made Florence’s dresses and Harry’s suits from vintage fabric, in addition to sourcing authentic period clothing. Everyday in Victory is a fashion show. We approve.

Florence Pugh and harry Styles embrace in Don't Worry Darling
Florence and Harry – not the perfect romance

The movie is Wilde’s second outing as a director, after the critically lauded Booksmart.  Wilde also plays Bunny, a neighbouring housewife who seems happy with her (p)lot.

And then there’s the soundtrack, which has so many great needle drops from the likes of Ray Charles, Benny Goodman, and the Platters, all interwoven with a dark, ominous original score by John Powell.

The perfect soundtrack to a disturbing cocktail party.

Don’t miss it darling.

Don’t Worry Darling is directed by Olivia Wilde, and stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne and Chris Pine. Rated 15, 122 mins. 

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