Don’t Worry Darling: the writing, the rumors and my rating

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Warner Bros.

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles pose together as their characters Alice and Jack for the Don’t Worry Darling promotional movie poster.

Don’t Worry Darling has been one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and yet the build  up was almost bigger than the movie itself. With a dazzling cast starring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, Olivia Wilde, the buzz around the film has been in the air since it was first announced in 2019. As the premiere approached, rumors quickly trickled out into the media. Very quickly, narratives became convoluted and all of a sudden, people were talking more about the drama than about the plot. Here is your guide to understanding it all: 

First and foremost, for all those who have managed to avoid this whirlwind of pop culture, here are the basics: Don’t Worry Darling is an R-rated psychological thriller movie that was released on September 23, 2022. The movie is set in the 1950s utopic suburbs of the town, Victory. The story revolves around Alice Chambers (played by Florence Pugh) and her charming husband Jack (played by Harry Styles). Set in a stereotypical town, the women stay home and attend to the house and children while all the men work for a mysterious job, “The Victory Project.” Slowly after a series of strange events, Alice finds herself questioning it all. Her husband, his job, the world they live in. The movie has a complex dynamic between a strong female protagonist in a patriarchal society and the tender romance of Jack and Alice, all in the rich, glamorous backdrop of 1950’s California. 

I feel it is important, before delving into anything else, to mention that this movie is riveting. Olivia Wilde’s direction and creation of the movie, Florence’s powerful acting, and Harry’s first large role in movies–they did an incredible job making the story feel real. This movie worked because of the actors and how well they executed their roles. The audience learns along with Florence, rooting for her character to figure it out, while being charmed by Harry’s Jack, the perfect husband, romantic and endearing but definitely suspicious. As a musician dabbling in acting now, Styles surpasses the expectations in his role. I feel that this role will get him future acting jobs and the public will start to recognize his acting more seriously. Harry also wrote a key song in the film “With You All The Time” for the score, which has also been submitted for consideration for a Grammy award. Chris Pine as a control hungry CEO is a solid character you know not to trust from the beginning, and his on-screen wife, Gemma Chan is an elegant addition to the film. Together under the direction of Wilde, the movie stands as a great piece of cinema, and potentially an award winning film. 

My biggest critique though, would have to be the very end. It’s left somewhat open ended. There is no sequel lined up, so the lack of closure for Alice’s character was frustrating. Gemma Chan’s Shelly also leaves the audience shocked, although that too points to a potential continuation. 

The rumors that flooded the media the past months have ranged from amusing to uphauling. A director and actor feud between Olivia Wilde and Florence, a supposed relationship between Olivia and Harry, the messy press run, “spit-gate,” Shia LaBeouf’s random involvement and Kiki Layne nearly being written out of the movie are just a handful of the headlines this movie has claimed. Whether it was to grab the attention of the media or not, it surely did. 

To start from the beginning: Shia LaBeouf was originally cast as Jack, but due to some major allegations and lawsuits against him, Florence Pugh felt uncomfortable acting alongside him in this role. After voicing her concerns to director Olivia Wilde, she allegedly fired him and instead hired Harry Styles to play the role of Jack. Much later, only a month before the release of the movie, LaBeouf reached out directly to a media source to say that he chose to leave the movie himself and that Wilde was out to ruin his career. He also sent in a video Wilde sent him, practically begging him to reconsider his leave while also making some snide remarks towards Pugh. This video circulated throughout the internet, leaving viewers shocked and hurt that Wilde would risk making a powerhouse of an actor like Pugh uncomfortable over an actor with a past like LaBeouf. 

After nearly three years of speculation regarding whether Pugh and Wilde were actually getting along, this seemed to be the nail in the coffin. Originally starting with Olivia posting an excessively flattering Instagram post (that has since been deleted) celebrating Florence’s work on the film that Pugh never acknowledged in any way, fans started to wonder if it was an accident, or if something had happened. Florence did not even attend the press conference at the Venice Film Festival Premiere, instead just appearing at the red carpet and the first showing. 

Sequentially, next is the intriguing relationship between Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde. In January of 2021, they were seen attending a wedding together and have since been seen together numerous times. Harry is known to be very confidential about his private life and has never outwardly been in a public relationship, leading fans to question if it’s true love or simply a publicity stunt to gain  traction for the movie. The other aspect of their relationship that has got attention is the circumstances: Oliva apparently separated from her fiance of seven years whom she shares two children with, merely months before Harry and Olivia were seen together outside of a professional capacity. 

Finally, after the unease of the production came the premiere which took place on September 5, 2022 at the Venice Film Festival in Italy. However, not only was the press conference a mess, but certain moments went viral from the hilarity of the situations. Harry Styles’ goofy, unserious answers, Chris Pine’s meme-able facial expressions of boredom, Olivia Wilde dodging questions about Florence’s absence, Nick Kroll and Harry kissing at the end of the viewing, and most of all, “spit-gate.” A video circulated of Harry Styles allegedly spitting on Chris Pine as he took his seat for the premiere. This allegation was denied by multiple sources and the cast has made multiple jokes about it including Harry himself, but the hilarity and potential hostility remains. 

All in all, it’s safe to say that publicity stunts or not, this movie got the attention it was asking for. It has currently grossed 30.2 million dollars and continues to climb. Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, and Chris Pine are what made the movie as good as it is, despite being in the midst of a lot of speculation and drama. Nonetheless, if you enjoy psychological thrillers, I would definitely recommend this movie!