Don’t Worry Darling, Olivia Wilde’s second directorial film after Booksmart, appears to be a mysterious thriller that follows Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles), who live perfect lives in a 1950s utopian town called Victory until things soon go awry and secrets emerge. The film is meant to be a drama—it tackles serious themes like manipulation, abuse, and paranoia. Yet, ironically, Don’t Worry Darling might be the year’s funniest movie.

The film only has a joke or two actually written in its script. Yet the audience couldn’t help themselves from laughing—that is, at the film. Most of this laughter was isolated to one actor, who precludes this film from being taken seriously: Madison Square Garden’s newest resident and the king of queerbaiting, Harry Styles.

To put it bluntly, Harry Styles can’t act. Styles plays someone British, yet his accent often flips from British to American mid–sentence. Styles’ Jack is a very complex character at the root of many town secrets and even Alice’s problems, yet Styles gives him no depth. The best moments are anytime he isn’t speaking, which is normally when he dances or is having sex. Styles does have several serious monologues where he shouts and vents his frustrations, but each of his monologues were received, by the audience at least, with roars of laughter and mockery. No wonder Christopher Nolan made his character in Dunkirk a mostly silent role. 

Perhaps Styles’ failure in this film isn’t entirely his fault. His character is unmistakably similar to his own on–stage persona as a suave, likable, and handsome guy. But this still comes at the film’s detriment, as this difficulty to distinguish Styles from Jack makes him come off as phony and fake. It also doesn’t help that Styles spends most of the film acting alongside Florence Pugh, who oozes charisma and is the film’s saving grace.

Pugh, one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses right now, is triumphant in this overall mess of a film. Most of the film is in the perspective of her character Alice, who starts off as an obedient housewife and slowly unravels into the mastermind behind Victory’s destruction. Pugh deserves additional praise because she gives such a powerful and riveting performance alongside Styles, who is like a blank wall reacting to nothing she says. In particular, there is one scene where Pugh is crying her heart out at a gala event, the likes of which you’d see in an Oscar nominee clip. And across the room is Styles, just standing there doing absolutely nothing and looking so damn out of place.

The film is saved by Pugh’s fierce performance, but there are several other positives that keep it engaging. The costumes, props, and set design perfectly capture the idyllic 1950s Palm Springs suburban community, including picturesque cul–de–sacs and colorful convertibles; Jack and Alice’s house is also gorgeous, with retro sofas and a cozy kitchen that juxtapose their lives as they begin to crumble. The cinematography is also very sharp, although the repetition of overhead shots does get a little tiresome as the film progresses.

Even though it has a slick and glossy look, Don’t Worry Darling’s visually appealing aesthetic can’t save the film from its glacial pacing. It becomes obvious in the first ten minutes that life in Victory is not what it seems; Alice is pretty certain from the beginning that her husband and Victory’s leader, Frank (Chris Pine), are lying to her. Yet she fails to act on her impulses and makes the second act incredibly repetitive, following this monotonous motion of uncovering secrets and then going back to her everyday life. This dull, repetitive cycle takes away from the film’s twist at the end, which is barely touched on despite it being the most essential beat of the film. The final ten minutes also bring a complete and sudden tonal shift, jumping from a previous meditation on the trappings of society to a Mad Max road chase.

In an era of streaming domination, R–rated and female–led thrillers released in theaters are few and far between. It’s therefore a shame that Don’t Worry Darling doesn’t prove why original, high–concept films should be released in theaters. It’s likely Don’t Worry Darling won’t even be remembered at all for the film itself, but rather the behind–the–scenes controversies—which are far more riveting than the actual film.