‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Review: An Erotic Thriller With A Flabby Execution

Olivia Wilde has a lot to worry about.

The noteworthy press tour for Wilde’s second film do not worry honey it was packed with enough drama for another movie. From conspiracies Harry Styles spat at Chris Pine involving a dissected video like the Zapruder movie, to alleged tensions between Wilde and Florence Pugh, do not worry honey had the worst press tour or the best word of mouth marketing.

That saga overshadows the film itself, which begins as a promising erotic thriller but sadly turns into an overcooked horror mystery with a toothless take on gender politics, masculinity, and heteronormativity. Despite Wilde’s best intentions, with the help of a mighty Pugh, catalog-ready home sets, and missed moments of pure entertainment, do not worry honey he cannot escape the creative and philosophical prisons of his own making.

do not worry honey it is Wilde’s second feature film after his 2019 teen comedy smart booking catapulted the House shine in a rarefied air as a director with a pronounced feminist vision. It began as a spec for Carey and Shane Van Dyke’s 2019 Blacklist, with a draft by Katie Silberman that became the shooting script. Unlike the well received smart booking, do not worry honey sees Wilde make an ambitious genre change with his take on creepy suburban satire with sci-fi underpinnings, reminiscent of Bryan Forbes. The Stepford Wivesby Lorcan Finnegan Nurseryand Marvel Wanda Vision.

But do not worry honey is a swing and a miss. Wilde delivers a disappointing derivative work, with confident but half-hearted commentary on sex and gender roles that doesn’t deliver the venom the material demands.

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The film centers on Alice (Pugh), a model housewife devoted to her husband, Jack (Styles). She cooks, cleans, loves sex and always looks fabulous. They live in a well-kept cul-de-sac with idyllic views of Southern California where they are neighbors with other of Donna Reed’s wives, including the husbands of Bunny (Wilde) and Dick Van Dyke (Nick Kroll). Every morning, the men climb into colorful convertibles in their Crazy men cosplay and drive like an army of Hot Wheels to work. Where they work and what they do is a mystery.

But who The one they work for is Frank (Chris Pine), the charismatic founder of “Project Victory,” a world few can enter and no one can leave. Equal parts comic book villain and cult leader, Pine plays Frank as if he’s fueled by refined oil, a malicious but engaging presence everyone treats with intimidated reverence. It’s a credit to Pine’s effortless charisma that Frank never gets stale, even when his sinister nature is painfully obvious from the jump.

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles co-star do not worry honeyOlivia Wilde’s second feature film.Warner Bros Pictures

Sadly, praise cannot be spared for the other male lead, Harry Styles, whose obvious beauty is inversely related to his screen presence. It’s an accidental but perfect summation of the film’s themes that Pugh’s talents save the film, allowing it to function with a modicum of competition.

styles aside, do not worry honey starts strong. Wilde has a clear eye for the table, carefully making sure each piece is in place before pulling them off like cinematic Jenga. It’s easy to catch what Wilde is saying, as Alice’s footsteps toward waking infuse enough momentum to keep the audience enthralled. But how do not worry honey dragging and putting too many thematic eggs in too many narrative baskets, Project Victory’s inevitable full reveal feels more like a relief than a satisfying, mind-blowing twist.

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It borders on spoilers to describe the central mystery of do not worry honey, even if Wilde has been outspoken about incel culture and the cult of pseudo-intellectuals. But Wilde takes the blows off. She’s horrified by the psychology of scruffy beards with RGB keyboards, but she never agrees to witness their most dangerous habits. We see insecure men who exercise a desperate and impotent need to control “their” women, but beyond one obvious instance, their actions are never examined, investigated, or even understood. Male anger and insecurity just exist, as natural as a reflex. Wilde is unwilling to find out why or show it.

Despite Wilde’s best efforts, do not worry honey it falls apart as a laborious, overcooked mystery with unintelligible arguments about how society controls women.Warner Bros Pictures

For all of Wilde’s efforts to make a film about impotent men and his reverence for a mythical past where gender norms were rigid, do not worry honey it doesn’t dive as deep as it should. That his film’s lazy eroticism serves no purpose other than to show two attractive people getting tangled up makes the film’s politics even more inert and distracting. “Behold a world where men control monsters,” says Wilde’s film. “Sex is really great!”

There is no better summary of do not worry honey and his spectacular efforts to be ready something is found in Harry Styles himself. In the middle of the messy press tour in Venice, he delivered this poignant insight: “It feels like a movie. Like, you know, a movie to go to the theater.” Beside him was Chris Pine and his thousand-yard gaze, his dissociation captured for our amusement. do not worry honey it’s definitely a movie, but everything outside of it has been more meaningful and worthy of attention.

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do not worry honey opens in theaters on September 23.

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