The drama around “Don’t Worry Darling” was far more entertaining than the film itself. “Don’t Worry Darling” had immense potential, but the hurried ending left too many questions unanswered. The film refrained from exploring potentially interesting characters. Olivia Wilde focused more on the aesthetic than the story. We are served with captivating shots that lack meaning. Florence Pugh delivered a brilliant performance as Alice, and she alone makes the film worth a watch.
Life seemed perfect for Alice and Jack. They were madly in love with each other and lived in a 50s-style neighborhood designed by the company Jack worked for. The closer one looks at their superficially perfect life, the more cracks one will chance upon. The men worked, and the women took care of the household. The men were required to be discreet about their job, and the women must never question their husbands about it. Women were restricted from going to the headquarters but could indulge in shopping and dance classes. Women were necessarily supposed to be the ideal wife image that is demanded in a patriarchal society. But who are these women? Why are they living in a deserted neighborhood? Why are they restricted from going to the headquarters? What is the reason behind their lack of ambition? Is this the 50s or just a society that romanticizes the gender norms of the 50s?
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Alice and Jack can barely take their hands off each other. When Jack goes away for work, Alice listens to Frank’s radio, in which the owner of the Victory project discusses the importance of the role of the wife in the man’s life. After cleaning their houses and cooking lavish dinners for their husbands, the wives get together to attend ballet lessons conducted by Frank’s wife, Shelley. They were introduced to a new woman in society, Violet Johnson, the wife of a new employee, Bill Johnson. There was an uneasiness that the new member felt at the dance class. She was yet to learn the way women functioned at the Victory Society. Margaret, the wife of Ted, was suffering mentally. She was kept at a distance from the rest of the members. Margaret had gone into the desert with her son. It is believed that she had seen something there that completely changed her. She apparently hallucinated; she was later found in the desert by the authorities, but her son was never found. Margaret had lost control of herself after that incident. Apart from Margaret’s behavior, there were other signs of strange events occurring that Alice noticed. While breaking an egg, she realized that the eggs were just shells. They looked like eggs and even felt like them, but they were fake. She could not help but wonder why Margaret said that they were not supposed to be there. She found it strange how obsessed the men were about Frank. She could not stop thinking about what the men were building at the headquarters and why women were prohibited from knowing about it. Such questions clouded Alice’s mind, and then she witnessed an incident that changed the way she viewed the Victory project.
One day, Alice decided not to get off at the shopping center with her friends. Instead, she chose to ride the bus as far as it would go. After a point, the bus driver stated that he had to turn around because he was not permitted to drive any further. Alice looked out of the window and saw a plane. The red plane crashed at a distance, and Alice was left screaming. She asked the driver to take the bus to the spot, but he refused to do so. Alice got off the bus and walked to the spot. The heat and dust took a toll on her, but she continued to walk. She walked to the headquarters and looked through the glass. She remembered moments from another reality other than the one she was living in. She also saw abstract imagery with Frank’s voice, discussing the importance of order. When she wakes up, she realizes that she is in her bedroom sleeping, and Jack is busy cooking dinner in the kitchen. What had Alice witnessed in the headquarters? Was it all a dream?
Why Did Margaret Commit Suicide? What Was Alice’s Initial Understanding Of Frank’s Plan?
After the incident at the headquarters, Alice noticed that the world around her had started to crumble. While cleaning the mirror, she could feel the walls closing in on her. Margaret called her and asked her to leave. She stated that everyone was lying to them. Alice was not ready to become like Margaret. Even though she knew something was wrong, she was not yet ready to face it. In her ballet class, Alice could see Margaret through the mirror. As Margaret banged her head on the glass, Alice noticed the blood and crack. She panicked and screamed, only to realize that no one else had seen what she had. Alice rushed back home and saw Margaret standing on the roof of her house. She held a knife in her hand, using which she slashed her throat. Alice ran to save Margaret as she saw her collapse and fall. Alice was stopped by a man in red and taken back home. Alice discussed what she had seen with Jack, but he was hell-bent on making her believe that Margaret had survived and that it was a minor accident that required a few stitches. Alice knew what she had seen, and even though the world around her made her feel mentally unstable, she trusted her sight and her sensibility. She had expected Jack to show her support, but he never trusted her. He feared that her behavior would put their lives at risk.
Jack brought Dr. Collins to check on Alice’s health. He reassured her that what she believed she had witnessed happen to Margaret was nothing but her imagination as a result of trauma. As Alice discussed her symptoms with Dr. Collins, she noticed a file dedicated to Margaret in his bag. She inquired about Margaret’s treatment, but the doctor barely gave any information. He stated that Margaret was physically well but needed psychological help, which was why Ted no longer worked at the Victory project. The doctor prescribed medicine to Alice, but both Jack and Alice did not wish to take medicine and believed that she would heal with time. The doctor forgot his bag when he left the house, and Alice took the opportunity to keep Margaret’s file with her. When she opened the file, she realized that every piece of information was destroyed, and the file was useless.
At a party thrown by Frank, Alice struggled to keep herself together. She could not stop thinking about Margaret’s death. She had seen her slit her throat, and she knew Margaret was dead, yet nobody believed her. As the thought of Margaret consumed her, Alice found it difficult to stay at the party. She rushed to the washroom when Jack was invited onstage and was offered to be a part of the senior advisory board. While it was great news, Jack seemed to be nervous. Was his sudden promotion related to his wife’s mental health? As Alice tried to comprehend the horror she was experiencing; Bunny entered the washroom. Alice confided in her friend how everyone around them was lying, how she knew Margaret was silenced, and it was not an accident. After visiting the headquarters, she would often remember things from a different reality. She could hear Jack’s voice in her head. But Bunny refused to encourage her curiosity; she wanted to believe in the world she was living in. Alice concluded that the families in the Victory project were nothing but tools to experiment with, and Frank was the leader. When Frank was invited to Jack and Alice’s house party, he confirmed in secrecy that Alice’s doubt was reasonable. He was glad that someone was challenging what he was creating, but sadly, no one was there to believe Alice. Alice wanted to prove him wrong and brought the topic up for discussion at the dinner table when everyone was seated together.
Alice pointed out that most of the women present there belonged to Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Chicago. They all went on a honeymoon to sea islands, the Poconos, or Niagara Falls. And how many of them met their husbands on a train to Boston when they dropped their tickets. Alice believed these were the facts that they were asked to believe and remember, but what if they tried to remember more than what was permitted? She believed Frank was lying to them and that everything that they were provided with was controlled by him. Therefore, he had the upper hand over them. While Alice tried to make her point, Frank dismissed it. The rest of the members were asked not to believe Alice. She was thought to be suffering from a delusion. Shelley refused to entertain another word against her husband. She left the party with Frank.
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Ending Explained: What Was The Victory Project? Did Alice Survive In The End?
After the drama at the dinner table, Jack tricked Alice and handed her over to the men in red. She was taken to a hospital and tied to a bed. She was forced to undergo electroshock therapy. During the treatment, she remembered a moment from her life before the Victory project. Jack had lost his job and was worried; Alice comforted him, saying that she would take extra shifts to provide for them. She remembered working in the operating room. She was a doctor, and people around her referred to her as “Dr. Warren.” She returned home to Jack. The hot water was not running, and dinner was yet to be ordered. Jack clearly was not happy with Alice’s lifestyle. He wanted to spend more time with her, but she was extremely busy with work. When Alice went to her room to rest after working a 30-hour shift, Jack listened to an audio recording stressing the importance of biological destiny. After the electroshock treatment, she returned to the Victory project. Alice was welcomed by Bunny, who was delighted to have her friend back. But when Jack touched Alice on her lips, she remembered the touch from their past. Alice ignored it and went with Bunny to spend some time. Alice had forgotten the names of the neighbors as a result of the shock, perhaps, and Bunny helped her remember.
Alice was back to living her life as usual, making lunch and cleaning the house. When Jack returned from work, she got the roast out of the oven, but she froze when she heard him hum a song that she had been humming for a long time now. She now remembered where she had heard this song. She had heard Jack sing this to her but in another reality. She remembered how she was drugged and carried away by Jack. They lived in a shabby apartment, and the weather was cold. Jack had agreed to the terms and conditions of the Victory Project; it was a virtual project that hypnotized the users and forced them to forget their reality and be a part of a society controlled by men. Jack had enrolled Alice in the program without her consent. She was tied to her bed, and her eyes were kept open with a device that helped with the hallucination. When the men went to work in the morning, it essentially meant that they went to the headquarters through which they could exit the Victory project and return to the real world. They worked during those hours to bring home the money and food required to keep the project and their bodies running and reentered the project after their job hours. The wives continued to hallucinate and lived in the Victory project, where they imagined that they were cleaning their houses and cooking meals. Alice could feel the pain in her body. She knew what was going on. She knew that the world they were living in was a fictional universe.
When she confronted Jack about it, he stated that he had saved her life. She was always working in the real world, and he gave her a life where she could relax. Alice screamed that she wanted to work; she enjoyed working, and he took it all away from her without even asking her. Jack was devastated; he was always thankful to Frank for building a world where they could be the way they deserved to be. Jack did not regret his actions; he thought what he did was for the better. When he could not fix his life in reality, he chose to live in a fictional world. All the wives in the Victory project were trapped. Jack did not know the men living there. No one knew where they were from in the real world. Alice could not take the truth anymore. She hit Jack with a glass, and he fell on her. Bunny entered their house; she asked Alice to leave immediately. Turns out, Bunny knew all about it. She told Alice that killing someone in the fictional world meant that they died in the real world as well. Now that Jack was dead, the Victory project would come looking for Alice in the real world and kill her. She was now a liability for them. Before leaving, Alice asked Bunny how much of it she knew. Bunny explained that she chose to be here because she could be here with her kids. In the real world, she had lost her children, but here she was with them. Even though Alice tried to reason that the children were not real, Bunny wasn’t ready to let go of her happy world. When Alice asks Bunny about the other women, she replied that none of them know the truth. They were all taken forcefully by their partners to live in a fictional world. We can assume that some did not even know their partners in the real world and that meeting on a train to Boston was a common plot that was used by many men in the Victory project.
When Alice stepped out of her house in her blood-soaked clothes, the men asked her to go back to her house. The fictional world was in disarray the moment the women looked at Alice with curiosity. Her blood-soaked clothes disturbed them, and, from what it seemed, they, too, started to remember bits and parts of their reality. Alice drove Jack’s car and headed to the headquarters. All the men of the Victory Project followed Alice in their car. They needed to stop her, or else she would destroy the ideal world they had built. Meanwhile, Frank was informed about Jack and Alice, but before he could take any action, Shelley stabbed him in the stomach. We can assume that she knew how problematic it all was, but she was too entangled in it to get out of it. She had stayed in Frank’s good books to win his trust. When Alice tried to escape, she found it to be the perfect opportunity to end his life and find her freedom. The film barely explores Shelley’s character, and even at the end, we do not know her intention or belief.
Alice’s car broke down while driving up to the headquarters. She got down from the car and ran as fast as she could. She reached the headquarters, looked around, and saw the men getting close to her. Alice looked through the glass of the headquarters and was transported back to the real world. We did not see her waking up in the real world, but we heard her. Her gasp after escaping the Victory project explains that she was back in her reality.
We can assume that Alice would wake up beside a dead Jack. Considering that the head of the Victory Project, Frank, was dead, the fictional world would be in total chaos, and no one would focus on finding Alice in the real world. It is also important to remember that the Victory Project was a small experiment with only 72 members. Therefore, a large impact on the real world cannot be expected. “Don’t worry, darling” reminds us of the horror of being denied agency. And how, if possible, misogynists would create a fictional world just to control women. Though it is extremely disappointing how Wilde barely explores the women in the film. We never got the chance to understand Violet, Shelley and Peg. Even though the characters had so much potential to contribute to the larger discussion, the film treats them as merely decorative pieces.
“Don’t Worry Darling” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Olivia Wilde.