After months of rumors, bad quotes, and either real or imagined projectile saliva, the buzziest movie of the fall, Don’t Worry Darling, hit theaters last Friday. As you must know, there is too much to discuss (and certainly worry about), so let’s not delay any longer …
1. What is your tweet-length review of Don’t Worry Darling?
Jodi Walker: Florence Pugh. That’s the tweet. (Coincidentally, it’s also the movie.)
Alison Herman: Snatching boredom (the actual movie) from the jaws of gripping intrigue (the Sturm und Drang around the movie). Impressive!
Andrew Gruttadaro: This movie could’ve been—has already been—a tweet.
Aric Jenkins: Better than expected, given all the hoopla. Still, an elite Florence Pugh performance and some genuinely striking imagery couldn’t save this movie from its nonsensical plot.
Kai Grady: Don’t Worry Darling is the perfect example of style over substance.
Kate Halliwell: I take full responsibility for what has happened here: Harry Styles heard fans say “Stockholm Syndrome” was our favorite One Direction song and said … you got it.
2. What was the best moment of the film?
Grady: The last interaction between Alice and Jack after he finally admits that she discovered the truth. Pugh carries this movie on her shoulders like LeBron James carried the ’06-07 Cleveland Cavaliers. She acts circles around everyone else on-screen (especially Styles) and in this scene, Pugh captures and emotes the many complicated feelings her character is experiencing (betrayal, anger, heartbreak, fear) to perfection.
Jenkins: The violent sequences with Margaret, as disturbing as they were, really ramped up the tension and gave the impression that this movie would be a good kind of strange. (It was not.)
Halliwell: Any time Florence Pugh faced off with Chris Pine. Actors acting!
Herman: Kate Berlant having fun while everything around her descends into chaos is as aspirational as any Palm Springs pool hang.
Walker: Setting actual plot aside (a cue I’m taking from the movie!), all the best moments are visual: the men’s cars pulling out in synchronicity each morning, the women luxuriating by the pool, enough mid-century-modern furniture to make West Elm shit a brick. I never minded looking at the Victory Project.
Gruttadaro: Miss Flo rightly deserves all the praise she’s getting, and this movie had a lot of weird, old-timey dancers for some reason, but Harry Styles spinning around on a stage to the glee of Chris Pine was the only moment in the movie that felt legitimately discomfiting. (This is not a comment on Mr. Styles’s acting skills.)
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Halliwell: Incel Harry is something I can never unsee. Never before has my fandom been so thoroughly tested.
Gruttadaro: Harry Styles’s Jack just being a 4chan bro is the simplest, most disappointing reveal in recent sci-fi history.
Jenkins: So underwhelming, so trite, and no one wants to see Harry Styles turn out to be a bum-ass Daily Wire reader.
Grady: I’ll go with the death of Chris Pine’s Frank. Why was his character rendered completely useless in the movie’s final moments? Trust me, I wanted him to get his as much as the next person, but the way his arc ended was wildly anticlimactic.
Herman: Harry Styles acting opposite Florence Pugh in his first leading role is like skating against Nathan Chen: You’ll definitely lose, but more importantly, you’ll probably hurt yourself.
Walker: Personally speaking, it was Chris Pine’s Frank calling Alice a “good girl,” because it proved once and for all that, given the opportunity, I, too, would follow Chris Pine directly into a toxic cult. Narratively speaking, it was almost anything that followed the big twist (which should have happened way earlier in the movie in order to rely a little less on Jack’s prosthetic acne in communicating why a man might intentionally strip his wife of free will). Auditorily speaking—way too much humming.
4. Shall we talk about the end?
Halliwell: I, too, will take the Florence Pugh route and simply choose not to.
Walker: Sure, let’s do it! The twist itself was decent, but I ask you: Why did we spend so much time learning all the best places around Victory to get fingered and so little time learning how the men of Victory went about putting their wives in catatonic states in order to enter a virtual world of (more) male supremacy?
Jenkins: The biggest compliment I can give it is that it’s certainly a conclusion that will make you think. But most of those thoughts are questions about the reasoning behind it all. I’m OK with suspending my disbelief to a degree, but the characters should still make choices that track with their established identities. So in the case of Gemma Chan’s character, for example, why do we have any reason to buy into her sudden betrayal? Most of the ending feels similarly unearned.
Herman: The thing about doing “The Matrix, but for gender” is that The Matrix does its big reveal at the beginning, not the end. I’d say Don’t Worry Darling should’ve shown its hand earlier, but that would require thinking harder about this world and its rules than the writers clearly cared to.
Gruttadaro: WHY THE FUCK DID GEMMA CHAN STAB CHRIS PINE?! WHAT WAS THAT?!
5. Don’t Worry Darling has had the most disastrous press run in recent history. How did that affect how you watched the movie, and how do you feel about the press run now?
Gruttadaro: I mean, even putting aside any on-set altercations (which may or may not have happened), I now fully understand why Florence Pugh and Chris Pine have absolutely zero desire to talk about this movie.
Herman: If anything, the movie itself makes the press tour seem like a blessing. If only Don’t Worry Darling were half as gripping, dramatic, and gasp-inducing as its rollout!
Walker: The alleged bad blood between Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh, the alleged relationship between Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles, and the proven, factual arc of spit between Harry Styles and Chris Pine were all so far removed from the plot of this movie that sitting down to watch it was a pretty pure experience. Leaving the movie, however, I was haunted by some of the things I’d heard the cast and crew say during their press run, most notably Oliva Wilde telling Variety about the movie’s unique focus on female pleasure: “Men don’t come in this film. … Only women here.” That whole idea kinda comes (sorry) crashing down when it’s revealed that Jack has nonconsensually trapped Alice inside a Sims universe full of incels (Simcels).
Jenkins: Throughout the third act of the movie, much of the full theater I was in began laughing every few minutes or so. I also didn’t think the movie was heading in a good direction, but the reaction still felt inappropriate and overly dismissive? I don’t believe that would have happened if the press tour hadn’t gone down the way that it did. If any movie is ripe for reevaluation in five or 10 years time, it’s Don’t Worry Darling.
Grady: The press run completely overshadowed the actual release—suddenly my anticipation became less about the actual film and more about the drama surrounding it. Ironically, though, seeing Darling has increased my appreciation for the on-set drama, because it turned out to be far more exciting than the movie itself.
Halliwell: Disastrous or iconic? I go to Sunday morning matinees all the time, and never before have I seen the theater as packed as it was for this objectively bad movie. The actual cinematic experience may have been underwhelming, but every moment leading up to this movie was a blast—10/10, no notes.
6. What is the single biggest lingering question you have about the Victory Project?
Grady: Who hurt Frank?
Halliwell: Why does someone who looks like Chris Pine need to create an incel dating simulation?
Herman: What’s the deal with Gemma Chan? Why did she turn on Chris Pine out of nowhere? What does it mean that it’s “her turn” now?
Walker: First of all, how dare you? Other than that: What was with all those earthquakes in Victory? Why did that plane randomly crash inside the mind-controlled utopia? Why did Gemma Chan stab Chris Pine after not a single hint that she was making all the other Victory women do pirouettes as some sort of long-con revolt? Why do the men die IRL if they die in the program, but the women don’t? And speaking of the program, how is Frank spending so much time in Victory while also running such a profitable YouTube indoctrination channel?
Jenkins: As my colleague Alison Herman points out, what are the families, friends, and coworkers of all these missing, drugged-up women doing while they’re gone?
Gruttadaro: Which venture capitalist firm is seeding Jack? Where do the guys go all day? Why, given his impressive VR technology, has Jack decided to limit his potential consumer base to “dudes who specifically want to go back to the ’50s”? Who are these dudes anyway? Is there a single person who wants to live like it’s Season 1 of Mad Men? What are Frank’s subscriber numbers like? Has he feuded with Joe Rogan or is he a frequent guest on the pod? When is Mark Zuckerberg and Meta going to buy out Frank? Victory’s tech is way doper. Doesn’t anyone notice that Alice is missing? Is the U.S. government just, like, cool with guys kidnapping their partners and trapping them in Incel Pleasantville? And if not, how is Frank hiding his company? It’s also pretty weird that Frank/Victory is so regressive regarding gender but so progressive regarding diversity, right? And last but not least: WHY DID GEMMA CHAN STAB CHRIS PINE?!
7. Harry Styles was himself a product of recasting. If you could recast his role now, who would you pick?
Herman: Two birds with one stone: If Evan Peters were busy making this, we might not have Dahmer!
Jenkins: Give me Will Poulter. Something about his appearance and energy suggests he could pull off a problematic 1950s husband with a secret. I mean that as the highest compliment, Will.
Grady: It’s a basic choice, but I would have to go with Timothée Chalamet. He has the Hollywood heartthrob vibe that this character calls for, he already has proven chemistry with Pugh, and he definitely would have been able to pull off the creepier version of himself in a much more believable way than Styles did.
Walker: Harry Styles was fine, but his performance was a distillation of the film itself: neither so disastrous that it entered the stratosphere of camp nor so revelatory that it warranted all the drama that surrounded it. That said, I think an actor like Andrew Garfield could have juiced some of the nuances out of the reveal that Jack was an entitled, selfish, pathetic little misogynist all along, even with this existing script.
Gruttadaro: First of all, let’s age up the role to amplify the nuance in the power dynamics of that relationship. Next, let’s choose someone who naturally carries a bit more latent danger. And then let’s go with someone you wouldn’t laugh at if, for example, he was in a car, yanking on the steering wheel and yelling “Fuck!” over and over again. … I think I’m describing Michael Fassbender.
Halliwell: Give me Dev Patel, and give me the unproblematic Dev Patel–Florence Pugh press cycle we deserve!
8. Great gowns, beautiful gowns. What was the best wardrobe moment in Don’t Worry Darling?
Jenkins: Adding this to my personal lookbook:
Herman: Miss Flo’s housecoat. Betty Draper wishes.
Walker: I liked the journey Alice’s final, bloodied white dress went on, but I was obsessed with the cascading peach cocktail dress she wore to Frank’s party/Jack’s dance recital.
Gruttadaro: Chris Pine was created by the gods to wear this shirt:
Grady: Miss Flo was definitely getting some fits off, but it has to be the dress she wore to the big party toward the end of the movie. I don’t know a lot about women’s fashion but the red and gold combo was striking and the expressive colors fit perfectly alongside such a pivotal moment.
Halliwell: Huge fan of the magenta garden party dress, and an overall tip of the hat to Flo’s hair stylist—if I get misguided bangs in the next few months, the blame lies on this movie.
9. Final answer: Did Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine?
Herman: In my personal fantasy simulation where things are “the way they’re supposed to be,” absolutely.
Jenkins: Unfortunately, no. That would be even more illogical than Don’t Worry Darling’s twist.
Grady: As much as I want it to be true, I have to go with no. There is just no way that Styles—one of the biggest celebrities in the world—decided to actually spit on Pine in front of so many people. #Spitgate was a lot of fun though.
Harry Styles: "It's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to be back in New York. I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine." pic.twitter.com/TUGOSoQPxw— CONSEQUENCE (@consequence) September 8, 2022
Halliwell: The only spit take that happened came from the group of 1D stans sitting next to me at my screening when Harry appeared in his greasy incel wig.
Gruttadaro: Not literally. But emotionally? Maybe.
Walker: [Carefully sets tiny tinfoil hat atop my original tinfoil hat.] Nick Kroll did it.