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Don’t Worry Darling Earns 5-Minute Applause At Venice Film Festival, But The Early Reviews Are More Mixed

harry styles and florence pugh in don't worry darling
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

While the summer movie season is officially over, there’s still plenty of cinematic content to look forward to this year. That includes the Olivia Wilde-directed Don’t Worry Darling, a 1950s-set psychological thriller, arriving later this month. Days after Cate Blanchett’s Tár impressed at the Venice Film Festival, Don’t Worry Darling has now screened at the event, and while it earned a five-minute standing ovation, the reviews frame this movie in a more mixed light.

The Venice Film Festival served as Don’t Worry Darling’s world premiere, and as reported by Deadline, the audience cheered for five minutes after it concluded, with Olivia Wilde being joined by stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine and Gemma Chan. So clearly many people in the crowd liked what they saw from Wilde’s Booksmart follow-up, and Deadline’s own review describes this “sort of a cross between Get Out, The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby” as being “fun, if familiar.”

[On] its own terms Don’t Worry Darling is actually quite entertaining if you’re in the mood, even if Wilde’s candy-coated psychological thriller doesn’t rewrite the rules of the genre in any significant way.

Variety described Don’t Worry Darling, which dropped its first trailer back in May, as being a perfectly satisfiable, if not exceptional movie that delivers a “big twist,” and specifically commended Florence Pugh and Harry Styles for their performances.

Between the pop ambition, the tasty dream visuals, and the presence of Harry Styles in his first lead role, “Don’t Worry Darling” should have no trouble finding an audience. But the movie takes you on a ride that gets progressively less scintillating as it goes along.

On the more negative end of the critical spectrum, we have THR, which called Don’t Worry Darling the “umpteenth Stepford Wives knockoff” that is technically well made and has some impressive performances, but falls short of landing its “inevitable Big Reveal.”

The high-concept, low-satisfaction psychological thriller marks an ambitious upgrade in scope for Wilde from the character-driven coming-of-age comedy of Booksmart, and she handles the physical aspects of the project with assurance. It’s just a shame all the effort has gone into a script without much of that 2019 debut’s disarming freshness.

Finally, USA Today (opens in new tab) rated Don’t Worry Darling 2.5 out of 5 stars, noting that Olivia Wilde’s second collaboration with writer Katie Silberman doesn’t have the same “spark” as Booksmart and even saying that there’s a lack of chemistry between Florence Pugh and Harry Styles in the movie. That said, the publication did concede, among a few other highlights, that Pugh keeps Don’t Worry Darling “watchable.”

Wilde's follow-up film imagines an idyllic (at least for the 1950s-loving crowd) community where there’s something sinister going on underneath the happy-shirt exterior. And while there’s a definite “The Stepford Wives” sort of vibe, the narrative themes (which do lean timely) lack subtlety and nuance.

Don’t Worry Darling’s Venice debut follows several days after it was announced that Florence Pugh won’t be doing anymore press for the movie. Officially, this is attributed to her being in the middle of shooting Dune: Part Two, where she’s playing Princess Irulan, but it’s also been rumored that Pugh doesn’t have a good relationship with Olivia Wilde. Regardless, the early critical reception indicates that Don’t Worry Darling won’t please all crowds, but there will be more reviews in the weeks ahead (including CinemaBlend’s) to provide other viewpoints and potentially shift the movie to either being more positively or negatively received overall.

Should you want to judge Don’t Worry Darling for yourself, it opens in theaters on September 23. Look through our 2022 release schedule to see what other movies are slated for the remainder of the year.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.