Don't Worry Darling review: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles play married couple in Olivia Wilde's ambitious yet derivative mystery drama

Florence Pugh (left) and Harry Styles in a still from Don’t Worry Darling.
PHOTO: Warner Bros. Pictures.

3/5 stars

Actress-filmmaker Olivia Wilde follows her well-received directorial debut, Booksmart, with this more ambitious, but ultimately derivative, tale.

Set in a picture-perfect 1950s American suburb, the focus is Jack Chambers (Harry Styles) and his wife, Alice (Florence Pugh), impossibly in love and living the dream.

Just as everyone is, seemingly, in this collective called the Victory Project, the brainchild of Frank (Chris Pine), a motivational tycoon.

At Victory Headquarters, all the men work on a top secret project, the "development of progressive materials" as it's called.

Is it nuclear weapons? The wives don't ask questions; they just cook, clean and wait for their husbands to return home with a smile and a drink.

Alice, however, starts to question things when life begins to feel off-kilter. In particular, a plane crashes, and no-one acknowledges it.

When she climbs a mountain to see the wreckage, she finds a strange domed building. After touching it, the next thing she knows, she's at home, in bed.

"Have you lost your mind?" asks her mother-of-two neighbour Bunny (Wilde) later on.

Harry Styles in a still from Don’t Worry Darling.
PHOTO: Warner Bros. Pictures

Would she risk spoiling paradise for answers? She's not the only one. A fellow Victory Project resident has similarly begun to crack up.

When Alice sees her slit her throat and fall from her roof, she's freaked out, only for the local doctor to soothe her with explanations of hallucinations and trauma.

All of this is intriguing enough, with Florence offering a valiant turn as someone trying to keep their sanity in check.

There's a great moment where Alice shrink-wraps her salad, like the good little housewife she is, only to cover her head in the clear, sticky substance.

Florence Pugh in a still from Don’t Worry Darling.
PHOTO: Warner Bros. Pictures

There's also already been plenty of online chatter about the sex scenes – with a suave, sexy Harry and Florence convincing as the couple on a "perpetual honeymoon".

But as the script by Katie Silberman unfolds, the film unravels.

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The real explanation behind everything draws from dozens of films that toy with our perceptions of reality; to name them will probably give the game away, but suffice it to say, you've seen this film before.

There is even a nod to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Meanwhile, the 1950s production design is exemplary.

Wilde delivers a film that holds its mysteries tightly bound until the final minutes. It's just a shame Don't Worry Darling doesn't ultimately deliver in the way you'd hope.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.