Warning: This post contains numerous spoilers about the ending of “Don’t Worry Darling.” Do not read unless you have seen the film.
“Don’t Worry Darling” had plenty of publicity before it was released, from director Olivia Wilde’s remarks about Shia LaBeouf to the Harry Styles-Chris Pine “spitgate” incident and various other dramas. But through all the pre-opening drama, the film’s storyline stayed unknown.
After the trailer premiered, audiences could see the premise was a “Stepford Wives”-like society where women had traditional roles in a sunny utopian society. Once viewers saw the film, they saw this story expanded as Florence Pugh’s Alice character begins to realize that something isn’t right in the placid community of Victory. But as events progress, it becomes a little harder to tell what’s really going on, and the ending has left more than a few filmgoers scratching their heads.
Part of the confusion could be due to the fact that the original script, which landed on the Black List in 2019, was quite a bit different. According to Insider, the script by Dick Van Dyke’s grandsons Carey and Shane Van Dyke got a rewrite from “Booksmart” screenwriter Katie Silberman, which made significant changes. Here’s a breakdown of what happens in “Don’t Worry Darling,” as far as we can tell.
The build-up: It’s probably clear to viewers that though Victory looks like a 1950s community, it doesn’t actually take place in that era. The characters have a more casual approach to sex and nudity than would be expected from that repressed decade (one scene finds a topless women roaming around the community pool), and there are no specific cultural references to the period. It’s established fairly soon that KiKi Layne’s character Margaret, one of the few POC in the community, has been taken away by unseen forces after questioning the system too much.
The twist, explained: After Alice repeatedly questions what’s going on in Victory — and why nothing is real, including the eggs she cracks that have nothing inside — it’s revealed that the Victory Project is a simulation, sort of like a highly-evolved virtual reality. Alice and her husband Jack (Harry Styles) actually live in the real world in a modest apartment. Alice works late nights at a hospital and is often too tired to show Jack affection when she gets home. Jack is unemployed. Alice’s work schedule and Jack’s aimlessness have been driving a wedge between them, with Jack feeling neglected by Alice. Jack is seen spending his days listening to online videos from an incel-like internet personality named Frank (Chris Pine), who has created an advanced technology that allows men and women to live inside a simulation of a 1950s utopian community.
While it is not explicitly shown, it is heavily implied that Jack, feeling totally alienated by Alice and wanting to maintain control over her, kidnaps her and holds her against her will so that they can both enter the simulation and live a happier life. Alice has no autonomy in this decision. A montage shows Jack registering for the Victory simulation and choosing to give himself a British identity inside the fake world.
Once Jack has Alice captive, he straps her to the bed and uses a futuristic technology to upload her into the Victory simulation. Jack uses this same technology to voluntarily go inside the simulation. Jack is conscious of his real-world self inside the simulation, but Alice and the other women are not. It’s implied that all of these women are being held captive by their toxic male partners and being uploaded into the simulation so they can be the perfect wives. The only wife that knows what’s going on is Bunny (Olivia Wilde), who reveals that she agreed to sign up for the Victory Project in the real world after her children died. In the simulation, Bunny has two kids (well, virtual kids) and lives happily. Bunny never told Alice the truth.
The attack: Once Alice becomes conscious of the information above, she goes rogue and stabs Jack with a butcher knife. Bunny shows up and explains that if you kill someone in the simulation, they also die in real-life. If Alice gets out of the simulation (which is achieved by going to Victory headquarters and touching a window, which acts as some kind of exit portal), she’ll then be able to expose the criminal acts of the men. Victory security henchman show up and try to kill Alice so that her real-world body will never wake up and expose the truth of the project.
The escape: In the final set piece, Alice snags Jack’s car and races through the desert to Victory headquarters in an attempt to escape from the whole misogynistic mishegas once and for all. Frank is listening to updates of the chase, but he is stabbed by his wife (Gemma Chan), who tells him, “It’s my turn now.” It’s unclear whether or not Frank’s wife was like Bunny and knew the truth about Victory or not. She either didn’t know the truth and killed her husband for keeping her prisoner, or she did know the truth and killed her husband so that she could play the victim card in the real world and not be responsible for any crimes.
Once Alice reaches Victory headquarters, she sees a vision of Jack who tells her to stay in Victory and to be with him. She doesn’t listen and instead touches the glass that presumably teleports her consciousness back into her real-world body. When Alice touches the glass, the film abruptly ends. The last shot of the film is a black screen. The viewer hears a woman gasping for air, implying that she has woken up in the real world.
A burning question you might still have: What was the meaning of the Busby Berkeley-style, black-and-white interludes of synchronized dancers? In a blink-and-you’ll-miss it scene, a video of these dancers is seen being projected onto the ceiling above the real-world Alice and she lays strapped down to the bed against her will. It appears this video is played on a loop and is a part of the technology that’s being used to upload Alice into the Victory simulation, almost like a form of hypnosis to keep Alice unconscious.
Another burning question you might still have: What did the men in Victory do all day if they were all aware they were living in a simulation? Inside the simulation, the men go to work all day and claim they’re developing “progressive materials.” It’s meant to be ambiguous, but things get slightly confusing when Jack tells Alice, after she has learned the truth about Victory, that he hates going to work and is miserable, too. That Jack hates whatever his 9 to 5 job is implies that the men of victory go to headquarters each day (they’re seen driving there, after all) and leave the simulation for their real-world jobs and to keep their imprisoned wives somewhat healthy (a montage shows real-world Jack watering real-world Alice’s dried lips, for instance, since she’s bedridden). Perhaps the small earthquakes that happen in Victory are the result of the portal sending the men in and out of the simulation.
Originally published at variety.com