You’ve probably heard of the new film Don’t Worry Darling by now. If you haven’t seen a trailer, you’ve at least heard of the drama.
First, director Olivia Wilde and Shia LaBeouf sparred over whether the actor quit the production or was fired. Then there were reports that Wilde and the film’s leading lady, Florence Pugh, didn’t get along on set. There is also Wilde’s relationship and possible affair with star Harry Styles, of which Pugh reportedly didn’t approve.
And, finally, at the Venice Film Festival where the film premiered, there was #SpitGate. Did Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine? Reps for Pine vehemently denied the internet’s speculation, but Styles had a bit of fun with the drama, telling a crowd at his next concert, “I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine … but fret not, we’re back.”
All of this — and more, though I won’t bore you — is the backdrop to Don’t Worry Darling, a psychological thriller about a woman trapped in an eerily perfect world with a dark secret. Whether the film’s drama was real and caused by poor directing (not sexism), or whether it was drummed up to build hype for the film, viewers might find the movie itself a little disappointing.
After all, when the highest praise Styles can come up with is that it “feels like a movie,” it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in what you’re about to see. But Don’t Worry Darling does “feel like a movie” in a visual sense: its colorful, 1950s-style backdrop is gorgeous and flawlessly crafted. The costuming and the set design shine, as does the cinematography, with aerial shots intermingled with close-ups cleverly placed to add to the viewer’s increasing sense of disorientation and dread. And then, there’s the plot.
Don’t Worry Darling follows Alice (Pugh), a beautiful housewife seemingly living the domestic dream: She’s married to Jack (Styles), for whom she cooks and cleans their spotless home while he’s off at work all day. But she has no idea what he does.
The couple is one of many in the Victory Project, a collection of people living together in a mid-century desert oasis. While the women stay home during the day, taking ballet classes, shopping, or caring for their children, the men go off to work, driving outside of the town into the desert, a place the wives are never allowed to go.
Alice and the other wives wonder what their husbands are doing all day, but they’re not supposed to ask, so they don’t — that is, until Alice sees a plane crash in the desert, racing after it to see if she can help and setting off a course of events that lead her to realize that the Victory Project is not as benevolent as it seems.
Having already starred in another two-hour film about gaslighting, Pugh excels as Alice. Her performance is extraordinary as always, and Styles’ isn’t terrible, though LaBeouf would have been a better fit for the role.
I won’t reveal the film’s final twists, but I will say that Don’t Worry Darling is a commentary on weak men and the problems that arise when they have only artificial and selfish outlets for embracing their masculinity. Jack and other men in his community revere Victory Project founder Frank, repeating his platitudes back to him and treating him like a god. It’s clear that they would do anything to win his approval, putting their wives and families second to their idol.
According to Wilde, the film is meant to be a commentary on the incel or involuntary celibate community, made up of men who feel entitled to women’s love. Really, the film could also be a commentary on any other form of women’s objectification, but all of this potential falls flat thanks to Wilde’s myopic mission.
In an interview released before the film came out, Wilde revealed that she based the film’s villain, Frank (Chris Pine), on Jordan Peterson. Yes, you read that right. At least you know you’re doing something correct when you literally become a Hollywood antagonist.
Wilde erroneously lumps Peterson in with the incel movement, saying that Peterson “is someone that legitimizes certain aspects of their movement because he’s a former professor, he’s an author, he wears a suit, so they feel like this is a real philosophy that should be taken seriously.”
These incels who supposedly worship Peterson, Wilde says, “believe that society has now robbed them — that the idea of feminism is working against nature, and that we must be put back into the correct place.”
For his part, Peterson took the comparison in stride, saying that Pine “has a reputation as quite an attractive man … so that could be worse.” But on a more serious note, if Peterson’s work does appeal to incels, it won’t coddle them. It will confront them.
Peterson continued in his statement that he has “repeatedly and very publicly” told young listeners that they should “think very hard about their own personal shortcomings and not the evil of the opposite sex, and that they should in consequence strive to amend themselves in the very ways that would make them attractive.”
It is odd that Wilde would set out to create a film about toxic masculinity and focus on a prominent thinker such as Peterson, while ignoring the likes of Andrew Tate and online figures who preach actual sexism to their fans. Perhaps what Wilde really takes issue with is Peterson’s support for traditional structures like the nuclear family.
If you take out the totalitarian control that governs the Victory Project, some of what it represents is actually pretty good: two-parent households, a tight-knit community, home-cooked meals, and mutual trust.
As one popular TikTok video put it, “living in this cute little house in a cute little neighborhood where my only job is to cook and clean for my husband Harry Styles while drinking as many cocktails as I want” is not a bad deal.
In picking Peterson as her villain, it seems like what Wilde really takes issue with is not the raging online sexists but the people who admire the values and institutions that aren’t trendy anymore: a marriage, a family, a community. You certainly wouldn’t want to find that in the Victory Project, but it’s not Western heritage that’s the villain. It’s the breakdown of exactly those traditional structures that leads to alienation, distrust, and supposed relief only in the dark corners of the internet.
Madeline Fry Schultz (@madelineefry) is the assistant contributors editor at the Washington Examiner.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.