I have the boobs, I bring the booze, and I review shit.
How this review series works: This series is unlike any you've read before. At the end of each review, I give a rating in the form of wine bottles. The number of bottles will depend on how many I had to drain to get through the series or movie on a scale of 1 to 5 bottles. Thus, like in golf, the lower the number of bottles, the better the show or movie. The greater the number of bottles, the more I had to suffer through it, chugging my way along. There will be no spoilers in these reviews, just an opinionated asshole with an unhealthy fascination for wine letting you know if you should dedicate your time to whatever I'm reviewing.
Let's get started!
What I watched: Don't Worry Darling
Movie or series: Movie
Where to find it: HBO Max, Theatres
Length of movie: 2h 3m
Wine type: Red
Wine brand: Don't Mind if I Do Pinot Noir (Do you get the correlation? Get it? OK) >$10
Have you ever wanted to watch a movie that combined The Stepford Wives, Groundhog Day, Back to the Future, and a sprinkle of societal and systemic oppression? Well, do I have the movie for you! Confused? Perfect! Let's get into it.
Don't Worry Darling released in theaters on September 23, 2022 amid some behind-the-scenes drama. It then released to HBO Max for a streaming option on November 7, 2022. However, the backstage drama is the main reason the film had gained popularity, starting all the way back to its announcement in 2019. You can read the full timeline of drama here, but here's the short version: Harry Styles replaced Shia LaBeouf, Olivia Wilde started dating Harry Styles, and there were click-bait rumors that Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh didn't get along. Now, let's catch you up on who all of these people are playing in the film.
Here's what really happened pic.twitter.com/8Rc02toCaC— Ace ۞ (@StrangeAcee) September 6, 2022
Don't Worry Darling is Olivia Wilde's sophomore directorial film. Harry Styles, yes THAT Harry Styles, plays Jack Chambers, who is married to the main character in this film, Alice Chambers, played by Florence Pugh. Supporting actors fill out this incredible cast of characters who are all critical to the story, dominated by married couples: Chris Pine and Gemma Chan as Frank and Shelley, Nick Kroll and Olivia Wilde as Dean and Bunny, Asif Ali and Kat Berlant as Peter and perpetually-pregnant Peg, Ari'el Stachel and Kiki Layne as Ted and Margaret, and Douglas Smith and Sydney Chandler as Bill and Violet. Just throw in the psychologist and general practitioner Dr. Collins, played by Timothy Simons, and that's everyone you get to know throughout the film.
Now, getting to the film! I remember first seeing the trailer when I went to see Top Gun in theaters and being instantly intrigued. I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of The Stepford Wives, and this seemed to lean in that direction. It added a thriller/horror element that seemed very interesting and curious. As soon as it came to HBO Max, my husband and I curled up—with wine, obviously—and watched it. Throughout the film, we kept pausing it to discuss the plot and ideas, to pee thanks to my post-baby bladder, or to fill up on wine (no, that is NOT a hint as to my rating for the film, but good try). We would make comments such as "this is amazing" or "this is so trippy" or "wow, this is really cool."
Here's my spoiler-free look at how the story lays out. Alice is one of many women who live in a town called Victory in the middle of the desert in what looks like 1950s suburban America. Her husband, Jack, works for a defense-related Victory Project, which is what they would have the audience believe as well, with random earthquakes, loud booms, and seeming testing occurring. It may have been a way to maintain danger at the center of the town to keep the women away, but we may never know. The town and project are run by Frank, who is perfectly shiny, charming, and charismatic. Every single morning, all of the men reverse out of their driveways at exactly the same time and are seen off by all of their wives. Notice how all of the characters above are listed as being married to each other? ‘Tis important.
The audience sees the men driving into the desert to a point in the mountain that's the Project HQ. This leaves the women to cook, clean, ride a trolley (because why should they be able to drive anywhere?), shop, and prepare a clean house and delicious meal all in time for their husbands' return from work. Throughout the town, there are signs about keeping what is heard in the town in the town and fear-mongering in the form of where the women can and can't visit. For example, the point in the mountain that is the Project HQ is off-limits. (This is when I know I would not do well in a 1950s setting. I am far too rebellious and independent.)
Jack and Alice live very carefree and picturesque lives. They get to have hot sex whenever they want, they have no children, and Jack gets a hot meal and a cold scotch every time he walks in the door. However, some of the symmetry and concealed chaos that they so endlessly attempt to maintain starts slipping through the cracks as the film continues. For example, Margaret is said to be on a plethora of medications due to her being in psychosis. But why she is in psychosis is unknown. After Alice watches a plane crash and runs to the point of the mountain (which remember is off-limits), the cracks begin to widen. The plane seemed to enter an invisible barrier of sorts around the town, which confuses several aspects of the movie. Was it from the outside world? Is there an outside world? Will we find out? She begins remembering parts of her life she had ultimately forgotten and witnesses a tragedy. She gets gaslit by the doctor and Frank, and she begins to investigate the mystery herself. She starts questioning Frank's authority, and he is known as someone you don't stand up to. This puts her and Jack's livelihood at risk within Victory.
The aspects of a thriller bubble to the surface as Alice continues her investigation by seeing things that aren't there, mirror images moving without the subject moving and some shocking imagery that's more related to horror films. She soon begins to realize that the benign happiness, control rigidity, structure, and manipulation will not allow her personal expression to be shown, and she does not have the freedom of desire for anything else. She questions her friendship with Bunny, Peg, and Violet as she starts to act like Margaret, who had been banished by the friend group for her erratic behavior.
A quick trip to the doctor, where they do goodness knows what has her back on her feet shortly and back to pretending to be in a blissful state. Her investigation continues until the shoe drops, and the plot twist is evident. Among the other messages of the film, the subtleties of societal issues were beautifully done. There was oppression and authoritarianism in the uniformity and lack of freedom of expression. When you add that to the worldly contradictions paired with the audiovisual disruptions that link bodily functions (contractions/expansions, biological functions, etc.), you have a wildly fun, trippy, and attractive movie.
Something else that requires commendation in the film is the cinematography, set design, and wardrobe choices. Not only was the acting superb, but all the above elements also made the utopian universe come alive. With the stark contrast of colors, sharp edges of the home life, and sleek, polished hair, clothes, and cars, I was truly immersed in the film.
This film has received many mixed reviews. Did it live up to the hype? Better yet, did it live up to the behind-the-scenes drama? My answer is:
1 out of 5 wine bottles!
Quiet gulps of confusion win this one! Did you watch Don't Worry Darling? What did you think? If you have anything you'd like to see in this review series, put it in the comments below!