For all the conversation that has swirled around Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling this year, it’s quite impressive that the central twist of the story remained almost entirely hidden. All this time, we really thought this was just some creepy 1950s nonsense. Who knows, maybe what we thought was a “PR nightmare” was just a glittery distraction from one of the biggest movie twists of the year.
Down to get spoiled? Keep reading to break down the big twist of Don’t Worry Darling.
What Is The Plot of ‘Don’t Worry Darling’?
Seemingly set in the 1950s, Jack and Alice Chambers, played by Harry Styles and Florence Pugh (but you already knew that), are a young married couple living in an idealized, experimental suburban community, Victory, which houses the men who work on a top-secret project, The Victory Project, and their wives. Each morning, the husbands head off to work, leaving their wives to take care of the house, shop with their friends, and drink a lot. The only thing Victory asks of the wives in return for this ideal life is discretion. Don’t ask questions, don’t go out into the desert, and don’t worry (darling).
All is perfect in a Stepford Wives sort of way, until Alice sees a plane crash in the desert beyond town, a forbidden territory. Concerned for the passengers, she runs out to the desert to find no crashed plane, but rather the Victory headquarters–a small circular building made of mirrors which, when touched, sends Alice into a blackout. She wakes up hours later in her bed with no memory of how she got there and a doting husband who insists it was just a dream.
Even before this, Alice began to notice her friend Margaret acting quite strange, asking questions and having outbursts where she would blurt out phrases like, “We shouldn’t be here,” until she eventually slits her throat and throws herself off of her roof as Alice watches. From there, chaos ensues. A traumatized Alice cannot forget what she has seen and begins to fall down the same path as Margaret, asking too many questions and drawing attention from Victory leadership.
Let’s Break Down That Twist Ending
[Major spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.]
As Alice begins to unravel, she experiences hallucinations and the ever-present echo of a song she knows but can’t quite place. She begins to suspect that Frank, the leader of The Victory Project (played perfectly by Chris Pine), is up to no good. She starts calling out the stranger aspects of their life in Victory–Why is every couple from the same three cities? Why does every couple claim one of a few meet-cute stories? How many couples could have met at a train station, and why does no one remember it totally clearly? Where do the groceries come from? What are the men doing in Victory?
In line with every other dystopian tale ever told, questions like these lead to trouble for our protagonist. After a particularly tense dinner with Frank, his wife, and a few other couples, Alice begs Jack to leave Victory. He agrees, and the two pack up the car, but he doesn’t drive away. Instead, he apologizes and dissolves into a puddle of tears as a team of red jumpsuit-clad Victory security approach the car and pull a screaming Alice out.
Alice finds herself strapped to a table and on the receiving end of electro-shock therapy. She again sees her continued hallucinations, hears her familiar song, and blacks out. She returns home, memory wiped and suburbia back on the mind. Here’s where things fall off the rails.
Back at home in Victory, she begins experiencing intermittent hallucinations, but this time they don’t look like hallucinations, they look like memories. With a touch and a hum from Jack, everything comes rushing back to her.
The year is not 1950, it’s 2022 (presumably). She is not a Stepford Wife, she is a surgeon. She and Jack live in a rundown apartment, which she finances with extra shifts while Jack, down on his luck and lazy, stays at home “looking for work.” This Jack is no well-tailored dreamboat, he’s a greasy-haired, stubbled, 4Chan kind of dude.
Through quick cuts and twists we see the true plot of Don’t Worry Darling and the reality of The Victory Project. Frank is no community leader or visionary, he’s a Jordan Peterson-esque podcaster and men’s rights activist, attracting incels and misogynists with his message of “men work, women cook.” The Victory Project is more than a podcast, it’s a simulation. Participants (which we can assume are solely men) bring their wives, girlfriends, or (a theory disappointingly unexplored in the movie) a stranger into the simulation and imprison them in this suburbia.
We see memories of Jack knocking Alice unconscious, strapping her to the bed, and forcing her into the simulated world of Victory. When the husbands “leave for work” each morning, they are exiting the simulation to go to their real-world jobs and make enough money to continue their subscription to The Victory Project. They are responsible for keeping their wives’ bodies alive in the real world, as they lay unconscious and lost in time.
Back in Victory, these memories flood back to Alice and she kills Jack in self-defense (if you die in the simulation, your worldly body dies as well). Covered in Jack’s blood and aware that her only chance at survival is to escape the simulation, Alice races back to the desert to the building headquarters she found early in the movie.
Our jumpsuit-clad security on her tail all the while, she eventually makes it to headquarters, and touches the mirrored walls to free herself. The screen goes to black, we hear her gasp (which we can assume is the sound of her waking up in the real world), and the credits roll.
That, in all its glory, is Don’t Worry Darling. It’s entertaining as a thriller, stunning as an aesthetic display, and groundbreaking in its depiction of the world’s hottest man as a greasy, Reddit-reading, incel.