Don’t Look Up | Movie Review: Leonardo DiCaprio leads in Netflix’s sharp comedy
Don’t Look Up, directed by Adam McKay and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, is on the right side of the truth, but are the liars listening?
Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay’s latest star-studded farce, makes a plea for mankind’s protection before pausing to ponder, “Hey, does humanity deserve to be protected at all?” When Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio’s characters realise that a planet-killing comet is heading straight for Earth, they go on a frenetic media tour to warn the rest of the world of the approaching disaster. What’s the issue? They don’t appear to be believed by anyone. And even when they do, they don’t take them seriously.
A snarky Meryl Streep plays a Donald Trump stand-in President who worries if taking a tough stance on the subject would hurt her prospects of re-election. After some back-and-forth, she chooses to deny that a Mount Everest-sized boulder is heading her way, prompting her legions of primarily middle-American fans to adopt the motto “don’t look up.” They stage protests against Lawrence and DiCaprio’s characters, Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky, who must now cope with just with a worthless President and an apathetic media, but also with a big segment of the populace that is completely denial of anything they say. “You can’t go about telling people they have a 100 percent probability of dying,” Streep’s President Orlean states in one moment.
Despite his finger-wagging, McKay’s viewpoint is restricted to the United States; his film does not consider the probable annihilation of the entire planet as a global concern. Ishaan Khatter comes in a five-second appearance as an online activist of some type, chastising the US government for restricting its policymaking to America, but McKay doesn’t see the irony. This was also a problem with The Big Short, which condensed a global financial catastrophe to a group of white Americans.
Don’t Look Up has the same wandering handheld visual style that McKay adopted in his career pivot to making’serious’ cinema—he was best known at the time for a slew of Will Ferrell comedies—and, while it doesn’t have a half-naked Margot Robbie splashing around in a bathtub and explaining astrophysics, it has plenty of sight gags.
But, apart from drawing top-tier talent (what’s up with that? ), pace is something he excels at. Don’t Look Up goes at a breakneck pace, while being perilously close to two and a half hours long. McKay even finds time to include a parallel narrative thread concerning Dr. Mindy’s personal life, which, surprisingly, does not feel forced. In fact, it is because of this that the picture, in its last minutes, morphs into something ruminative and compassionate. These aren’t the kinds of descriptors you’d ordinarily connect with McKay’s art, which usually exudes arrogance.
For once, he has chosen a ‘problem’ whose full impact will be felt in the future—despite the fact that, as mountains of data show, the Earth is presently in the death rattle stage. McKay’s customary approach to contemporary historical events is to say “I told you so,” but in Don’t Look Up, he offers a personally involved DiCaprio—the actor is renowned concerned about the environment—his own version of Network’s legendary “I’m upset as hell, and I can’t take it anymore” sequence.
DiCaprio is excellent as Dr. Mindy, who is a continuously hyperventilating disaster in the first act, a cocksure blowhard in the second, and a weeping idiot in the third. Despite being second in line to Lawrence, he has the longer arc and more screen time. Lawrence’s PHD student, in fact, disappears for a significant amount of the film until reappearing alongside Timothée Chalamet in the moving end. Her exchange with Jonah Hill’s character, Chief of Staff, is a highlight.
Don’t Look Up is, in the end, a sermon to the choir. It is more probable that the folks it is ridiculing will surrender their automatic weapons than watch liberal Hollywood at its most hair-pullingly arrogant for more than two hours. The entire operation has the feel of something McKay and his group of West Coast elites could do at a party, slapping each other on the back and raising a finger at a Christian who is selling Jesus’ tears for $2. But the world is still coming to an end, and the preacher has never heard of Adam McKay. So, who’s the one laughing now?
Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Rob Morgan, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, and Ron Perlman star in Don’t Look Up.
3.5 stars for Don’t Look Up.