Actor-turned-director Olivia Wilde is making a conscious attempt at creating films that veer away from the tone of mainstream Hollywood. Her latest directorial effort, Don’t Worry Darling, aims to portray sexuality in a way that is often missing from most movies from the last five years or so. That conspicuous lack of eroticism, to Wilde’s mind, is a problem that needs to be solved.
Starring her current romantic partner Harry Styles, the filmmaker turns her attention to lead actor Florence Pugh. It’s a bold attempt to give a shot of sexuality to a notably chaste era of film. But it won’t be a throwback to old, aged, problematic sex-in-film tropes, either.
Don’t Worry Darling is a sexy psychological thriller
Wilde’s directorial career has already produced three entirely different types of films. 2019’s Booksmart was a coming-of-age buddy comedy, made unique by focusing on a pair of girls instead of the boilerplate teen male angle. 2020’s Wake Up was a dark, experimental short starring Margaret Qualley, a complete departure from Booksmart.
And now, 2022’s Don’t Worry Darling has Wilde exploring a more straightforward psychological thriller sort of territory. Straightforward insofar as the film has a linear narrative, that is — as the plot appears to be anything but simple. Pugh plays a housewife living in a planned utopian community in the 1950s, but all signs point to the couples around them having a dark secret. That includes her own husband, played by Styles.
Olivia Wilde highlights a distinctly female perspective in Don’t Worry Darling
Wilde chose Don’t Worry Darling as her next project because she felt it filled a niche. Movies like Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal were outright blockbusters that expertly blended thriller plots with erotic premises. She told Vogue that these movies were “really sexy, in a grown-up way. I kept saying, ‘why isn’t there any good sex in film anymore?'”
The script for Don’t Worry Darling provided exactly what she was looking for. But it won’t quite be a 1:1 take on a 1980s-style erotic thriller. Wilde describes the final film as “The Feminine Mystique on acid,” referring to the foundational 1963 second-wave feminist text by Betty Friedan.
She found that in the screenplay for Don’t Worry Darling. She then found her lead after watching Pugh’s leading turn in the occult horror movie Midsommar. After a tumultuous attempt at working with Shia LaBeouf, she then turned to Styles. For a secondary role in a stacked cast, it was a surprisingly difficult part to cast — in large part because of the kind of material.
Wilde wants to portray a different kind of sexuality than most current films
Styles took on the role that many unnamed high-profile male actors turned down. Their difficulty was twofold. First, the script places a confident focus on Pugh’s character instead of a male lead. Second, the part requires facilitating a rare focus on a very feminine sort of sexuality.
Upon seeing the film, audiences will “realize how rarely they see female hunger, and specifically this type of female pleasure,” Wilde told Indiewire. The report describes, in tantalizingly vague terms, a scene between Styles and Pugh. While the director only talks about the scene in technical terms — wryly leaving it to the viewer to see it for themselves — it’s clear that the scene zeroes in on Pugh.
Don’t Worry Darling reveals its mysteries on September 23, 2022, according to IMDb. At a time when theaters are filled with fun for the whole family, it should serve as a welcome relief for adults looking to spend time away from the kids. But apparently, fans of Styles might not find quite what they’re bargaining for from a sexy thriller starring their favorite pop star.