But... there's nothing inside! [/metaphor]
Regarding gossip around the production, plot holes etc etc, I don't particularly care about either, and it's not very satisfying to go into them. I've nothing useful to throw in here.
It got better in the second hour, probably because things actually happened, there was more drama - which is to say, there was some drama. The explanation was better than the teasing, which was affected and irritating. I dislike films yelling at me, ‘there is a mystery here are some clues’. I prefer them to speak softly, build a world, make characters I believe - or who even if they’re thin, are charming and charismatic - and let me find questions and clues, via their authentically asking questions and finding clues.
That being said, there’s reason to make these characters broad, given the whole reductive simulated reality of it all. Same goes for the music choices, which were boring and obvious. You could make a point of their obviousness, as you're revealing that the 1950s male-centric Victory is a cliché and a fantasy. Here, that wasn't the case. Nothing's charming enough, Victory is thin and unoriginal, and we spend way too long with these boring sketches of people. Boring because you knew enough that this world wasn't what it seemed and too little effort was made to draw me into it. It might've been less grating if the filmmakers hadn't telegraphed the reveal ahead of the release. Nope had the nerve to keep things quiet, and it worked better as a result. In DWD's case, there was no rug laid that could be pulled out.
I'm sick of out-of-nowhere imaginings with high-pitched whining on the soundtrack. It's just a thing filmmakers do because other, better films did it, in those cases with reason (cf. the dreams/memories in Rosemary's Baby).
Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe the dreams are to be read only metaphorically. That'd be a good get out of jail free card for this criticism - although, if it's the case, then how do I know what I should take as metaphor and what I should take as a memory-slash-simulation parallel to non-simulation events? Are the earthquakes Inception-like dream responses to events surrounding the imprisoned women? No, that doesn't work, because the Victoryites don't all live in the same place, as far as we know. (Insert plot hole mockery here to labour the point and make the writer feel smug and intelligent).
And please, no acting out of character for the sake of getting the plot going - why is Alice compelled to break the eggless eggs early on? What makes her feel something isn't quite right? This isn’t (The) Truman (Show) Burbank searching for answers because a light fell from the sky, the rain followed him, and that lift had no back wall. This is a script rushing to the plot without the story underneath it.
Perhaps they cut a scene which supported this, I don't know. Whatever happened, what's showing in cinemas wants me to join a conspiracy - come on viewer, you know what kind of film this is, so we won't do the work of including the 'reason' scenes, we'll jump to the search and rely on you filling in the gaps with your memories of other films.
Florence Pugh's a hard worker. A dead person could see that. She works hard and credit to her. She listens to other actors, but can also generate believably when her scene partners aren’t offering much to listen to - see most scenes with Harry Styles. An exception to this is him betraying her in the car, where I thought his performance almost matched hers.
Mike Nichols had a favourite direction for actors - look at the script and think, ‘I am like this when…’. Maybe Harry Styles knows how it feels to cast off love-struck, adoring young women. It’s not unfathomable that he’d be good casting for Jack. Take a beautiful superstar who reeks of confidence and have them play a pitiful weakling. It could be brilliant. Shia LaBeouf too would've brought bags of subtext to Jack, though it would initiate an ethics conversation I'm sure Warner Bros. doesn't want anywhere near a major release.
I thought Olivia Wilde was quite good as Bunny - nothing original in the character, but she did a fine job. The reveal that she chooses to be in Victory is good and interesting, but explained in eight lines, when one, with subtext through the film, would do better. I really don’t need you telling me you’re simply mad with motherhood and grief. I don’t buy it. Give Bunny some credit and depth. Don't make her the broken mother. Or address better the fact that she pays so little attention to her kids.
Or go another way - make her happy to trade freedom for comfort. There are plenty of people who’ll do that. (See, for example, Cypher in The Matrix). Or is it necessary that everybody here be characterized as a victim?
On the topic of the men, the film is again more interesting than it knows. I'm glad Jack's not 100% chauvinist male-supremacist. It’s better that he’s kinda sad, pitiful, inarticulate, lacks confidence, struggles to be a good partner for his girlfriend. DWD might be improved by swallowing its pride and doing the reveal earlier, then making tension out of the relationship between the reality and the men's fantasies.
Maybe the reason it doesn't is that it's trying to land a 'hideous men, powerful liberated woman' message, but the (relative) depth of Jack's characterisation undermines this.
All these 'maybes' are because the film isn't clearly enough written or directed. Sometimes it looks like the directing and writing are in conflict with themselves or each other, and I'm left in the middle. (Just to be clear - great direction and writing doesn't undermine richness and subtlety and make everything easily palatable or understandable. What it does do is lay out the playing field properly and clearly, like setting a game board. There's still endless richness available after that.)
There's an interesting moment in the reveal flashback when Alice asks if the hot water isn't working - Jack replies that he called the repair guy, but he wasn't available today. Alice is upset. She's exhausted, not being able to shower is the cherry on top of a 30-hour shift at the hospital, so she goes to bed, shutting the door on Jack.
It's not clear what I should feel about this, and in another film, that'd be great! Should I be critical of Jack because he can't fix his own plumbing? Can I also be sympathetic to him because he misses his girlfriend? It's the most interesting part of the film, the real-world relationship. Alice the hard-working doctor, a mature young adult building a life, dating Jack, the feckless man-child. There's drama here, but Don't Worry Darling expects its audience to think "eurch pathetic guy hasn't fixed the plumbing and wants sex, girlboss will not put up with that" and pivots directly to 'simple-minded man is radicalised online and enslaves girlfriend'. It's a fine idea for a simpler-minded movie, but the film, almost in spite of itself, builds a more complicated, slippery moment than can support this huge leap.
It hasn't shown us Jack sat on his arse all day doing nothing - he might've been working. And sure, he isn't capable of fixing the plumbing, which is a flaw worth looking at - maybe it's a dealbreaker for Alice. And if that's acceptable on her part, then so is his feeling he's not enough of a priority for her.
His insensitivity to her work ethic, her bitterness to the state of their apartment, his wanting sex, her not being in the mood - this is good stuff! A relationship on the rocks, both sides have their points (and their flaws). Think how great it'd be to dramatise how this plays out at length - knowing all the time that it leads to, let's say, her choosing to break up, and his being so unwilling or incapable of accepting that, that he makes about as contemptible a choice as you can imagine - imprisoning, drugging and enslaving her.
Add to that this timely idea that there are others like him, encouraging each other online, tempting the most shameless (Chris Pine's character) to build a sci-fi system in which they can live their fantasy. 4chan comments made flesh. Brilliant! It's as potent and relevant to sexual politics in 2022 as The Truman Show was to American TV in 1998.
I want to understand deeply Jack's pain, and be revulsed at his choices, and I want to admire Alice's agency, sympathise with the conundrum of loving her work, taking on responsibilities, and having to sacrifice for them. And I want to be on the edge of my seat excited to see her free herself.
What I got was a film about two straw people, albeit with one performed with greater depth than the other.
Again, I reckon doing the reveal sooner, or having both worlds be introduced sooner, could've worked well. You could play with POV in a meaningful way - who thinks this world is theirs, Jack or Alice? Who should be guiding the story, who is trying to control it, etc etc. *
Infinite potential, really disappointing how little it does. It’s not that the reach exceeds the grasp, it’s more like the reach isn’t far enough.
* (Or, you could go super-broad and characterise the men as a fleet of Andrew Tates. Perhaps this could've been Don't Worry Darling!, in the vein of Don't Look in the Basement or Don't Answer the Phone! Characterise the men as reductively and disdainfully as plenty of other films have women. Make a revenge/liberation fantasy.)