In this mashup of Mad Men and Black Mirror, Florence Pugh stars as Alice, a happy-go-lucky housewife in a circa 1960 community called Victory, where the men go off to work on some secret project while the women gossip, swim, guzzle cocktails, attend dance classes, and cook dinner. It all looks too good to be true, and of course it is: a few minutes into the film, Alice and the audience start noticing that things are a little... amiss. A neighbor (KiKi Layne) starts acting erratically. The eggs that Alice cracks for breakfast are empty inside. There is a vast desert zone surrounding the community – much of the film is shot around Palm Springs, in all its midcentury glory – that no one is allowed to cross. And so forth.
This is one of those movies that tell you early on that Things Are Not What They Seem, then make you wait around for an hour and a half to find out what's really going on. And so while watching Don't Worry Darling, your mind will wander and take stabs at the big twist: Are Alice and her neighbors brainwashed cult members? Stepford Wives-style androids? prisoners of The Matrix? The screenplay by Katie Silberman (story by Carey and Shane Van Dyke) doesn't do much to direct us or misdirect us, and in fact leaves several plot holes: Why does the community smilingly endure random earthquakes? Why does a plane crash over the mountains? Are these clues, symbols, or just random glitches in this phony utopia? I guess they're just supposed to be random glitches, as they're never explained. But it's sloppy filmmaking.
Florence Pugh is undeniably magnetic; along with the picture-perfect costumes and sets, her star power is Don't Worry Darling's main draw. The rest of the cast is serviceable enough, including singer Harry Styles as Alice's husband and Chris Pine as Victory's enigmatic leader. (Director Wilde gives herself a supporting role as a neighbor who may or may not be in on the sham.) In fact there's nothing all that bad about Don't Worry Darling – barring one sudden, stupid moment at the end involving costar Gemma Chan – but it doesn't have as much to say as it purports. Its smirky title is at the core of its simplistic feminist message: "Men won't let women be free!" No time is made to explore any contradictions or complexities.