The most scandal-prone movie of this year’s early awards season improbably turned out to be Don’t Worry Darling. Olivia Wilde’s follow-up to Booksmart, it went from hotly anticipated to tabloid fodder, with shocking allegations of on-set spats and, during its premiere, a fun little diversion dubbed “Spitgate.” It still went on to top the box office during its opening weekend, but the reviews were only so-so. Perhaps critics may have enjoyed it had Wilde and team stuck with the script’s original ending.
Warning: To discuss the original ending of Don’t Worry Darling requires talking about the ending that made the final cut. If you haven’t seen the film and wish to preserve your innocence, turn back now, for there be spoilers. We’ll discuss the latter first.
The ending the film got: Alice (Florence Pugh), who seems to live in an isolated California company town called Victory in 1950s America, gradually comes to realize she lives in a simulation run by its Jordan Peterson-esque founder, Frank (Chris Pine). Upon discovering that she was plugged into the simulation against her will by her husband Jack (Harry Styles), Alice goes to the mirror that serves as the exit point. The film’s title suddenly comes up as we hear her take a breath, presumably escaping into the real world, although it’s ambiguous what really happens.
The script’s original ending: As per Digital Spy, it’s not just the ending that’s different; it’s the entire second half. For one thing, the simulation isn’t called Victory. It’s called Alt-Life and, in the real world, at least, it’s a lot farther into the future — 2050, to be exact. There are fewer characters; Frank isn’t even around, nor are Shelley (Gemma Chan) or Margaret (KiKi Layne). The main characters also have different names: Alice is Evelyn, Jack is Clifford, and Wilde’s Bunny is Betsy.
What’s more, the revelation comes a lot earlier — around the halfway mark, to be exact. Evelyn/Alice follows Clifford/Jack to his work, where she sees him enter an empty house. She later goes into the house, finds the mirror passageway, and enters it, waking up in the real world. It’s there that she discovers a computer message from Dr. Anderson, its version of Frank, describing Alt-Life as a “”society of men, by men, and for men.”
Evelyn/Alice also discovers that in the real world, she and Clifford/Jack had divorced and she’d become a huge success. Clifford/Jack couldn’t take that, so he drugged her, faked her death, and plugged her into the simulation. Evelyn/Alice returns to the simulation before Clifford/Jack returns.
Over time, Clifford/Jack begins to suspect his wife knows the truth. He tried — and fails — to erase her memory. Upon learning that the exit point has been moved, at which point Evelyn/Alice tortures Clifford/Jack to reveal its new location. She even threatens to sodomize him with a broom handle (seriously). After he tells her, she does it anyway.
But wait, it’s not over yet. Evelyn/Alice escapes into the real world, but Clifford/Jack follows her. A fight ensues, which ends with her stabbing him, first with a kitchen knife, then with a screwdriver to the eye. She’s wounded and passes out, awakening back in the simulation, where Dr. Anderson tried to gaslight her, telling her that the idea that she was living in a simulation was a mere delusion, which had led her to kill her husband.
Evelyn/Alice plays along, only to bite a chunk out of Dr. Anderon’s cheek. She’s sedated but when she wakes up, she’s visited by Betsy/Bunny, to whom she told the truth earlier but who didn’t believe her. Now Betsy/Bunny reveals that she knows where the new exit portal is: inside the hospital. Evelyn/Alice finally escapes again, this time for good. There is no ambiguity, beyond where she goes next.
Don’t Worry Darling is currently playing in theaters. It is presumably due on HBO Max some time in November.