- Words Louis Rabinowitz
The trailer for the new film Don't Worry Darling, starring Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, depicts a timely story of gaslighting and the struggle for emancipation in the 1950s American suburbs.
After the acclaimed high school comedy Booksmart lit up screens in 2019, actress-turned-director Olivia Wilde could have done anything with her sophomore project. She could have stuck to what works, carving out a niche making Gen Z spins on Judd Apatow-style comedies, or made the all-too-traditional leap to blockbusters that so many promising indie filmmakers have done in recent years.
Instead, her choice of follow-up reflects a filmmaker with an intriguingly broad palette. Her second film, Don’t Worry Darling, sees Wilde leap from teen comedy to psychological thriller in the period setting of 1950s picket-fence American suburbs. The first trailer dropped this week, and you can check it out below:
It’s a film with plenty going for it. There’s the anticipation factor of Styles’ involvement, for one. The singer earned plaudits for a small role in Dunkirk and entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a post-credits cameo for Eternals, but this year marks his first true leading roles, with the release of Don’t Worry Darling, alongside the queer drama My Policeman, both serving as chances to truly prove his acting bonafides (all the while, the star is set to release his third solo album). There’s a killer cast backing Styles up too – the deservedly ubiquitous Florence Pugh, who’s made waves in the MCU and just booked a key role in next year’s Dune sequel, plays Styles’ on-screen wife. The likes of Chris Pine, Kiki Layne, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll and Olivia Wilde herself are backing them up with further roles.
There’s also the matter of the film’s keenly relevant themes. The 1950s setting has been ripe for American nostalgia harking back to a simpler and brighter time for decades, but as with an increasing number of recent projects, Don’t Worry Darling is delving into the darker side of the era, unearthing the patriarchy and racism concealed behind those shiny picket fences.
The trailer pits Pugh’s character against a charismatic cult leader played by Pine, who has the force of suburban society at his back – an all-too-familiar story of gaslighting and male abuse of power that has become a common feature of cinema in the wake of #MeToo and the Hollywood reckoning it caused. Even the film’s title is a reminder of that misogyny, encapsulating how the concerns and fears of Pugh’s character are dismissed and belittled by the men around her.
Indeed, the questions of female autonomy and the desire of men to control it raised by the trailer have sadly acquired an even greater pertinence this week with the news of the planned repeal of Roe vs Wade in America, which will pave the way for legislation banning abortion in several Republican states. Set almost 70 years ago and yet telling a distinctly 2022 story, it’s a depressing symbol of just how old the questions raised this week really are, and of the underlying social forces that refuse to change even as the decades pass.
Wilde’s film is just one within a major crop of recent films commenting on female struggles against structural misogyny – so if you’re intrigued by the themes the trailer raises, check out The Assistant starring Ozark‘s Julia Garner which dramatises the all-too-real experiences of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, or Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a stunning drama depicting a young teenager’s journey to New York to find an abortion, and the difficulties she faces along the way.
Don’t Worry Darling releases in cinemas on 23rd September.