The Focus on Sex Scenes in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Only Feels Worse After Seeing the Film
Early in the press tour for the film Don’t Worry Darling, there was a lot of emphasis on the depiction of female pleasure in the movie. Our leading couple, Alice (Florence Pough) and Jack (Harry Styles), has a lot of sex, and we see one very long sex scene of Jack going down on Alice. Florence Pough spoke about her discomfort with this marketing focus, and after seeing the movie, I get why.
Spoilers for Don’t Worry Darling.
If you watched the trailer for Don’t Worry Darling and got Stepford Wives vibes, you would be correct in that assessment. The vibes settle in very quickly, and it is clear that something dark is happening in Victory. During the last thirty minutes of the film, it is revealed that the world the characters inhabit is a VR simulation that Chris Pine’s Jordan Peterson-style character has created based on his … podcast. Real-world Jack had begun to resent that his girlfriend Alice was a successful surgeon and he was out of work, wanting to create a world where he would be the man in control, and she would be the waiting wife, and that VR simulation gave him the means to do it.
This was done without Alice’s consent, which means that all of these sex scenes are essentially rape by deception. All those lines about female pleasure seem a little poorly conceived. In a Vogue cover story with director Olivia Wilde, she shares this train of thought:
“The 1950s get this rap as a very controlled, conservative era, when in fact it was incredibly debaucherous. My grandparents on my mother’s side loved to party,” Wilde says. One of Wilde’s aesthetic reference points for her film was Poolside Gossip, Slim Aarons’s photo of coiffed women in caftans chatting over cocktails in a Palm Springs backyard whose manicured perfection can’t help but imply some Lynchian rot lurking beneath; another was the thrillers of Adrian Lyne, like Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal. Those movies are “really sexy, in a grown-up way,” Wilde tells me. “I kept saying, ‘Why isn’t there any good sex in film anymore?’ ”
Even though I can understand the idea Wilde is going for, since we do have a deficit of good sex scenes, maybe the movie where a man is mind-controlling his girlfriend isn’t the right one for this take?
When addressing the scenes, Pugh said, “When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it. It’s not why I’m in this industry. Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because [this movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.”
As an actor, Pugh isn’t new to sex scenes and the power dynamics that can be explored that way, but it seems like there was a disconnect here.
(featured image: Warner Bros. Discovery)
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