Don't Look Up
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Melanie Lynskey, Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance, Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Tyler Perry, Kid Cudi
Adam McKay has become an auteur in the worst way. His films, boasting large casts and “important issues”, talk down to the viewer, patronizing his audience under the veil of entertainment. His latest “Don’t Look Up” for Netflix is the least articulate of his recent best picture nominated films (“Vice”, “The Big Short”). Early scenes of his doomsday satirical comedy pay homage to Carl Sagan and “Contact” as Jennifer Lawrence’s character discovers the asteroid that will destroy Earth. While the cast and McKay discussed how this comedy is supposed to bring awareness to climate change, you wonder who this film is actually for. Those already involved in climate change efforts don’t need a modern “Dr. Strangelove” to get more involved. Those who don’t care about climate change won’t watch it, and because the plot is beyond senseless many won’t even understand the filmmakers meaning.
PhD Candidate Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) and America’s sexiest scientist Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) are frustrated that The White House isn’t taking their desperate pleas to save the world from impending doom seriously. President Orlean (Streep) and her Chief of Staff son Jason Orlean (Hill) are more worried about optics, votes and midterms, than saving the planet. Dibiasky and Mindy take their message to the talk shows, but turned into a national joke, her cropped red bangs and nose-rings partnered with his sweaty nervousness don’t invoke a lot of confidence, despite their definitive evidence. It’s only when the asteroid’s mineral makeup is seen as valuable that trillionaire tech giant Peter Isherwell (Rylance) devises a plan to break up the planet killing rock into small pieces so they can make money from it.
Those already involved in climate change efforts don’t need a modern “Dr. Strangelove” to get more involved. Those who don’t care about climate change won’t watch it, and because the plot is beyond senseless many won’t even understand the filmmakers meaning.
The last time we saw DiCaprio and Streep on screen together, he was a teenager and she his mother in “Marvin’s Room” (1995). Their pairing is only one of many reunions as McKay’s cast is so large, half of Hollywood is rubbing elbows, including popstar influencers Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi to get the kids to watch. McKay is also a good study of film history, embedded in his writing are endless references to other films, so it’s likely not a coincidence that Lawrence looks like she is in the “Lady Bird” sequel with Chalamet reprising his role as that character’s love interest. Unfortunately, the cast can’t save the planet or this film from it’s false sense of importance. If you cut the satire down about 50% this might work, but as it spirals so far out of control, no message coming from this mess can be taken seriously.
Life really does imitate art, or is it the other way around? Never more obvious than the press conference following the New York premiere where, just like his character Jonah Hill couldn’t stop talking long enough for the cast and McKay to sell their underlying climate change paradox. Even as the moderator tried to call attention to DiCaprio’s almost Oscar worthy passionate speech moment; Hill interrupted that moment too, with ironic jokes about his co-star chewing the scenery again. If you like stupid comedy, the kind McKay built a career on with Will Farrell (“Anchor Man”, “Step Brothers”) this might interest you, but lets not pretend this is anything more.
McKay needed to trim about two hours and ten minutes from this SNL skit that’s rarely funny and overly pretentious.