“All they ask of us is to stay here. Where it’s safe.”

As we step into the world that is Olivia Wilde’s newest directorial piece, Don’t Worry Darling, we are transported to a town called Victory, and oh what a blissful place it is. It’s the early 60s as a group of young couples occupy themselves with silly parlor games as a wave of martinis continues to flow. The day is not much different. The men head off to their jobs at the Victory Headquarters where they continue to work on “the development of progressive materials.” Their wives take in the amenities the town has to offer by taking dance classes, shopping for clothes, or lounging and talking to the fellow ladies and drinking a cocktail or two on the front lawn. That is, as long as their daily housewife chores are met.

A parade of iconic songs are played on the radio, only cut between a man named Frank (Chris Pine)—the visionary for Victory—who preaches to them about ways to live their life in perfect harmony. “The opposite of progress is chaos.” Everything remains tranquil for our main character, Alice (Florence Pugh). She basks in the glow of the summer California sun as she removes the dried laundry from the line outside. Who is that happy to be taking down laundry? Almost too happy. The happiness is almost too short-lived as Alice begins to notice cracks within the town’s system. She first notices this when her friend Margaret (KiKi Layne) begins to reject the town after an incident happens to her. Alice discounts Margaret’s cries for help as a psychological episode, but soon Alice finds out that they are truly something more. As Alice digs further into the Victory Project, the more her husband Jack (Harry Styles) denies her. It’s when Alice begins to challenge Frank and his mission, that everything becomes dire.

Don’t Worry Darling has more problems than I can possibly count. But what upsets me the most is that it has so much going for it—if only it can just smooth out the edges. The film begins strong, as a Stepford Wives type of movie, but in the end it just can’t tie up all the questions it presents. The performances are incredibly weak. None of the characters will give you that heart-aching feeling. The only reason you stay watching this movie is for Pugh, and even she’s watered down compared to what we’ve seen in her past. She puts this film on her back and runs with it. No one else can say the same. Okay, maybe coming in a distant second is Pine, but that’s about it, as his scenes are few and far between. Don’t even get me started on Styles, who overacts. You can clearly tell where experience and inexperience came into play with the actors. Wilde’s direction is begging to be found among the actors’ poor performances. Which is why, when push comes to shove, Pugh and Pine could rely on their experiences to achieve a half-decent performance—leaving new, or some actors unfamiliar with dramas, left in the dust.

I could even live with the weak characters, if the third act of the movie didn’t disintegrate into nothing. To be honest, the first two acts of the film aren’t terrible, but they build up to what you think is going to be an epic whirlwind of twist and turns. At the beginning, there are some questionable situations that the characters find themselves in—not to mention Alice stumbling onto one discovery after another, is rather convenient. However, I can get behind the initial first part of the film. But after you’re given all this information to consume, it’s like it doesn’t matter anymore—everything breaks down.

As Wilde went out on her press tours and promoted Don’t Worry Darling, she labeled it as a feminist film. How she got that out of the hodgepodge narrative that this film is, I will not know. It’s clearly not a “feminist film” although it has a main female protagonist. But there are several scenes involving Alice’s pleads for help, and the other women refusing to listen. Or even Alice refusing to listen to Margaret’s pleads, and the other ladies labeling her as crazy in their afternoon gossip sessions. To be honest, it’s just a movie. A thriller or drama, whichever genre you’d like to place this chaotic film into.

Believe me, I was beyond excited to see Don’t Worry Darling. I am a huge fan of Wilde’s 2019, Booksmart, and believed she could take her directing categorically further with this film. When the trailers were released it only excited me more. However, the end result is just too messy for words. There’s a statement that’s constantly quoted by Frank through the Victory radio airwaves, “The opposite of progress is chaos.” Funny thing, chaos is all this film is.

Don’t Worry Darling

Directed by: Olivia Wilde

Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, KiKi Layne, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, Kate Berlant, Asif Ali, and Chris Pine

Rating: C-