Esther Watson

Don’t Worry Darling’s flawed feminism

Harry Styles's acting isn't the only painful thing about this film

  • From Spectator Life
Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in Don't Worry Darling [Alamy]

Don’t Worry Darling, the highly anticipated psychological thriller directed by Olivia Wilde, has arrived in cinemas after months of online gossip and speculation about its production. The controversies include: an alleged affair between the director and main actor, Harry Styles, who also happens to be one of the most famous pop stars on Earth; the firing – no, sorry, ‘replacing’ – of the originally cast main character (Shia LaBeouf was switched for Styles); a reported fall-out between lead actress Florence Pugh and Wilde, which led to Pugh not doing any publicity for the film; and a bizarre TikTok theory that Kiki Layne and Ari’el Stachel were hired to meet the Oscars new diversity requirements only to have most of their scenes end up on the cutting room floor.

This was all brilliant publicity, obviously – so much so that one wonders if Wilde set out to make a movie for the internet age from the get-go. The cinema I watched it in was full, mostly with young women and girls desperate to see former One Direction star Styles on screen. But the critics were not wrong. Styles’s acting is painful to watch – more Hollyoaks than Hollywood – particularly in the later scenes where it feels as if the film is giving up on itself. 

The setting is California in the 1950s and the cinematography is dreamy. The costumes are exquisite. The colour palette is awash with soft Instagram hues; the ASMR of the housewives chopping, stirring and scrubbing their way through the day is ready to be shared on TikTok.

It’s a bit like The Truman Show and a lot like Stepford Wives but nowhere near as good as either

The suburban homes are filled with rich teak mid-century furniture and each housewife is glossier and more glamorous than the next. The whole film is drenched in a golden syrupy Californian sunlight.

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