Thursday, December 23, 2021

Don't Look Up - Review


In the latest directorial effort from director Adam McKay posets the question: what if the world knew of its impending doom, and did absolutely nothing about it? That frightening premise is the baseless for a dark satire that is the furthest thing from subtle you could possibly be. But a smug, self-absorbed approach to satire produces something that’s ultimately toothless and insufficient at addressing the legitimate issues at the core of this supposed comedy.

When a pair of astronomers, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, discover a comet heading straight for Earth, dooming humanity, their mission to get those in power to listen becomes paramount. The rest of the film is a sequence of failures as the films mustache twirling bad guys frequently do more and more despicable things. Too often, Don’t Look Up congratulates itself, and all its viewers, for feeling superior to these small minded, greedy people, even if some of it hits too close to home. 

The screenplay is centered around a grimly funny and unfortunately realistic idea. It’s a logical line of thinking that the populous wouldn’t believe that their doom was mere months away, especially considering the state of the world in 2021. Where this may be chilling as a parable for the constant state of debate and conspiracy of the real world, Don’t Look Up doesn’t explore the implications of this at all, instead going for the easy targets and their mixed up beliefs. 

However, in putting together a cast like this one, the performances are bound to be memorable if nothing else. Meryl Streep and Mark Rylance seem to having a lot of fun with their cartoonish stand ins for real life individuals. Jennifer Lawrence gets to play slightly off type here, and is still as solid as ever. But the one standing above the rest is DiCaprio. His whole performance is pretty great, but one scene in particular, described by many as ‘Network’-esque, is absolutely phenomenal, and might just plant him in the middle of the awards race.

There are certainly some moments where the humor connects, particularly in some of the running jokes that pop up from time to time. McKay has no shortage of experience with comedy, but it seems in deviating from his knack for adapting real life events into digestible, humorous films has had questionable effects. The film is way too long, and every possible exit ramp to the conclusion is seemingly ignored to make the story more ridiculous or over the top before the climax. Again, the ideas are solid, but the execution is severely lacking.

In the end, McKay is probably right, this is unfortunately probably how this scenario would happen. Our entertainment focused society and the overwhelming denial of reality, mixed with heaps of political discourse at every corner would blind many to our demise at the hands of unstoppable galactic destruction. One can sympathize with this viewpoint, but with its clumsy satire, Don’t Look Up misses the mark on most of its messages, even if some of the humor and performances work.

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