The World is about to end but no one’s paying attention in Adam McKay’s biting satirical black comedy ‘Don’t Look Up’
‘Don’t Look Up‘ opens with PHD student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) rapping along to ‘Wu-Tang Clan aint nutin to F’ with‘ while discovering a world ending comet heading for the earth. This scene alone perfectly sets the tone for a film which happily combines profoundly serious matters with ludicrous levity and over the top antics. Director Adam McKay has strong comedy roots, having started work on Saturday Night Live and completing several films with long-time collaborator Will Farrell. His foray into more political/dramatic movies have been successful with the likes of ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Vice‘ receiving recognition and multiple awards.
Leonardo Decaprio stars as Dr Randall Mindy, a brilliant scientist with a plethora of social anxiety issues. When his student Kate discovers the earth is 6 months away from being wiped out by a comet measuring over 5km, they set out on the almost impossible and comical task of convincing the US government and the public that without immediate intervention, we were all going to die. Like the best satirical films, Adam McKay presents us with a series of terrible scenarios and proceeds to poke fun at our handling of them. He cleverly mirrors real life crisis like climate change, social media/gossip worship, political apathy and our current distrust of science and ‘experts’ without directly referencing them.
It’s not often we see an ‘A’ list cast willing to send themselves up in this manner. Actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, and Meryl Streep (the world’s greatest actress!) are much better known for their dramatic roles, which is where they excel. Whilst they haven’t suddenly become comedians, their timing and commitment to the characters were perfect. This film also saw DiCaprio reunite with Jonah Hill after their great pairing in
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But the best scenes were shared between Meryle Streep and Jonah Hill. Meryl is the savvy, solacious President Janie Orlean and Jonah is her arrogant son/Chief of Staff Jason. They make a delicious pair, and their scenes were some of my favourites to watch. Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry as the eternally optimistic talk show hosts were also great
Some may find the films tone slightly heavy handed, and McKay’s handling of the subject matter a touch ‘preachy’ but the reality is, subtlety doesn’t really cut through in a world where nothing shocks, and we are accustomed to everything. As the film demonstrates (comically), even being told we are facing extinction in 6 months doesn’t warrant much of a response until people find ways to exploit the situation. The sight of a comet hurtling its way through the sky and those ‘in power’ telling the little people they can prevent an infringement on their freedoms and liberties by just not looking at it, are both funny and depressing.
The quality of film output from Netflix can be uneven and questionable at times. A big budget doesn’t always equal a quality but occasionally, matching the right director with quality committed actors can result in something special. While the plot and characters are top notch, I feel the story could have been tighter. There does appear to be some unnecessary filler and I don’t believe the film owns its almost 2 1/2hour run time. It ends up feeling longer than it should but makes up for it with some funny end credit scenes
Don’t Look Up has the tag line ‘Based on real events that could happen‘ and if nothing else, serves as a reminder of how we view the world and information around us and maybe think harder about what we are told. The film had a limited theatrical release on the 10th of December and is now streaming for free on Netflix