Recently, I attended an early screening of Olivia Wilde’s long-awaited movie, Don’t Worry Darling. (You probably haven’t heard anything about it.) The theater was awash with Harry Styles t-shirts and tote bags. Everyone — Harry fans and film buffs alike — sat in anticipation for the start of the film. But when the end credits rolled onscreen, the excitement of the audience wore out. Rather than applause, the Don’t Worry Darling twist ending was met with a dumbfounded silence. Spoiler alert: This story contains spoilers for Don’t Worry Darling.
So what happened in the movie that warranted this reaction? A lot, to say the least. I expected there to be twists in Don’t Worry Darling, but I could’ve never predicted what they ended up being. The movie has its fair share of big reveals, though none are as major — or as perplexing — as the Victory Project plot twist. If you left the theater feeling blindsided and confused, don’t worry (darling) — I’m here to break it all down for you.
To offer some context, Alice (played by the impossibly talented Florence Pugh) and her husband Jack (aka the always-booked Harry Styles) live in an experimental community called Victory. From the very start of the film, you can sense that Victory is not as peaceful as it promises. Chris Pine does an excellent job as Frank, the town “Big Brother” who’s hell-bent on protecting Victory’s idyllic image. When Alice spots a plane barreling into an off-limits area, she begins to question what Frank may be hiding. Chaos (and many, many tears) ensues from there.
Towards the end of the movie, Jack turns in his “hysterical” wife to the heads of the Victory Project. At that moment, Jack’s motives for betraying Alice are unclear. It isn’t until Alice is forced to get a lobotomy that she sees him for what he truly is. Alice’s shock treatment triggers a rush of memories, all from her life outside of Victory. Here, Alice learns that she is a modern-day doctor who lives with her deadbeat, greasy-haired, conspiracy theorist boyfriend. That’s right: Harry Styles plays an incel.
Dismayed by the power dynamic of their relationship, Jack signed himself and Alice up to participate in the Victory Project. The Victory Project is a secret online organization, where men kidnap their partners and hook their unconscious bodies to a machine. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? Alice, obviously, does not take the news of the Victory Project well. Though the lobotomy successfully wipes her memories, she later remembers the truth of Victory. Desperate to return to her real life, Alice searches for an escape. The first step she takes towards freedom is killing her so-called “darling.” Apparently, if someone dies in the simulation, they cease to exist in the real world, too. In other words, Jack is no more.
Jack’s villain reveal, along with the reveal of the Victory Project, are the two biggest twists in the film. It’s debatable as to whether or not these twists paid off. According to a number of critics, Don’t Worry Darling still left some questions unanswered. Fans on Twitter seem to be in consensus with critical reviews, expressing confusion over the main plot twist. As Twitter and critical reactions alike point out, Jack’s justifications for his actions are vague. When Alice confronts Jack about sending her to Victory without her consent, Jack explains how “unhappy” she was in the real world. Alice objects to Jack’s claim, as she is visibly less happy in Victory. Jack stripped her of her authority, turning her from a doctor to a housewife, whose sole purposes are to cook, clean, shop, and act as his sex toy.
The argument that Jack and Alice share underlines the main antagonist of the movie: the patriarchy. Jack’s assumption that Alice is “happier” as an unemployed housewife comes from a place of masculine fragility. As I mentioned before, Jack cannot cope with the subversion of gender roles and power in his relationship with Alice. In short, Alice hurt his pea-sized ego. Jack’s decision to participate in the Victory Project represents his (and the other male participants’) need for control. In Victory, men render their female partners voiceless and mindless. The experiment is the product of the male fantasy, where antiquated norms are upheld. Victory’s 1950s backdrop highlights how little development there’s been since the actual 1950s in how men view gender. People there are stuck in the past, both physically and mentally.
The twists don’t end there. The last 20 minutes of Don’t Worry Darling is an absolute rollercoaster — one you should check out yourself. Sept. 23 marks the release of the psychological thriller. Prepare to be shocked, sickened, and — as the title of the movie suggests — a little bit worried.