Don’t Worry Darling | Official Trailer

That was definitely the funniest thing that happened all night, though much of the movie, and specifically the crowd’s reaction to it, was plenty amusing. Wilde’s movie has received mostly negative reviews thus far (it currently holds a 35 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but what hasn’t been conveyed widely is just how fun the movie can be with a crowd that is game for a good time. I don’t think Darling is great cinema, but it is a beyond serviceable popcorn movie with a very strong aesthetic sense (it’s set in what appears to be the ‘50s, and Kroll during the Q&A specifically mentioned the Rat Pack as the reference that Wilde gave him). Employing the domestic thriller convention of gaslighting its protagonist (as seen in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The Good Son, Orphan, Single White Female, etc.), it effectively solicits frustration and tension via the plight of Pugh’s character, Alice, specifically her mental state. Early on, Alice realizes that the picture-perfect life she and the other residents of her idyllic suburban cul-de-sac inhabit may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The men work in the “development of progressive materials” at the mysterious Victory Project, which requires a ride across an unpaved desert to reach. The women, meanwhile, are expected to be servile, take ballet classes, and ask no questions. They don’t seem to be able to see the patriarchy for the trees, but soon enough Alice does and thus begins her red-pilling.


Themes of bodily autonomy, the subjective nature of reality to a certain segment of the population, and the process of “awokening” to the power structures that comfort can render invisible are obvious, but not out of line with contemporary progressive concerns. Don’t Worry Darling doesn’t have much to add to these notions, but like many horror movies of the past that have signaled societal tensions, it’s content to effectively hold up a fancy mirror. The movie’s open reminiscence is particularly pointed in its cinematic references, which are at times overt (Alice sees tightly choreographed Busby Berkeley-esque dance numbers playing in her head and participates in similar ones with the local women), but otherwise recall the plots of the likes of The Stepford Wives, Logan’s Run, and The Village. Wilde invokes the domestic-routine-as-misery montages of Michael Haneke’s The Seventh Continent, and I saw shades of Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in the climactic car chase (yes, this movie has one of those!) that takes place in the desert. If you’re going to be derivative, you should at least have good taste, and Wilde does.

Katie Silberman’s broad script and the way it plays out on screen leaves lots of space, it turns out, for response—I don’t think this is intentional, but Don’t Worry Darling has a camp-friendly sort of pacing. The audience I was in took virtually every opportunity to fill those spaces, mostly in reaction to most everything Styles did on screen. They frequently sighed. “You know what I do, Alice. I’m a technical engineer,” says his character Jack, to his wife. Sigh. “You know we can’t talk about this.” Sigh. “It’s classified, we’re not even allowed to discuss our jobs with other departments, you know that.” Sigh. That scene of counterfeit exposition turns tense, leading Jack to shout, “Stop it!” The audience giggled. “I’m part of something important Alice. This mission what Frank’s doing. It matters!” continues Jack. The audience laughed harder. Another scene in which Jack proposes having a baby with Alice had the crowd positively squealing.


The times of Jack’s most pronounced despair—and Styles’ overacting—elicited the most pronounced laughter. The crowd seemed to have a very good sense of humor about their dude, which was refreshing. Yes, it was all in admiration—maybe even worship—but so often fandoms, at least as they conduct themselves online, seem to be utter humorless about their patron saints; they seem to need to believe their heroes are perfect. None of them are, though. This crowd seemed to embrace Style’s shortcomings out of endearment, which historically, was always part of the fun of admiring a pop star in my experience. These kids really got it.

Plus, the vocal nature of the crowd made the screening a true New York moviegoing experience. With all due respect to the Alamo Drafthouse, a theater I frequent, its insistence on silence gentrifies seeing movies in New York, whose crowds for decades have actively and loudly responded to what’s happening on the screen. None of the Stylers did anything overly disrespectful or distracting, but I was happy to see such young people uphold the tradition of making their feelings known and, ultimately, communal.


Don’t Worry Darling strikes me as, above all else, a great vehicle for a pop star. There’s enough to chew on, it’s kind of dumb, and the broadness of the entire production means that the fun is there for the taking. Outside the theater after the show, I heard a young girl talking about the movie on her phone. “It was so good. So. Good. No it was. It was. It really really was,” she said. A few minutes later: “It’s my new favorite movie.” A few after that: “I’m in love with this movie.” I can’t quite say her enthusiasm is contagious, but by that point I totally understood where she was coming from.