A pair of astronomers (Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio) try to warn a selfish President (Meryl Streep) about a deadly comet in Don’t Look Up.
Don’t Look Up is a sledgehammer satire that skewers America’s political discourse and social media fixation. Director/writer Adam McKay uses barbed black comedy to show our inability to agree on an obvious apocalyptic threat. His premise has a comet heading towards Earth. Narcissistic leaders, coupled with entrenched red state/blue state divisions, prevent agreement on impending doom you can literally see coming. The film has laugh out loud moments, but goes overboard in its depiction of selfishness and ineptitude.
Don’t Look Up starts innocently with Michigan State PhD astronomy student, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), tracking an unknown object in the night sky. She horrifically discovers that the mountain-sized comet is on a direct collision course with Earth. Kate alerts her department chief, the perpetually anxious Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo Dicaprio), who confirms her finding. Dr. Mindy hurriedly contacts NASA. Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), the Pentagon’s head scientist for planetary defense, orders them to Washington DC immediately. They must brief the President of the United States. The comet will arrive in six months.
President Orlean (Meryl Streep) believes them, but sees no urgent need to respond. Her poll numbers are down, the midterm elections are coming, and she’s got a sex scandal brewing. Even worse, her arrogant son and Chief of Staff, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill), takes an instant disliking to Kate and Dr. Mindy. The scientists are stupefied by the government’s inaction. They decide to go public. Their interview with a pair of popular talk show hosts (Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry) doesn’t go nearly as planned.
Kate and Dr. Mindy struggle emotionally to cope with the end of the times. They cannot fathom why President Orlean and her right-wing followers choose cognitive dissonance over scientific fact. The end is nigh, but half of the population labels the comet as a hoax or “fake news”. Adam McKay fashions Meryl Streep’s “Orlean” character in the vein of Donald Trump. Then mocks MAGA supporters with “Look Down” emblazoned red caps.
Don’t Look Up aptly dissects the worst traits of humanity. It’s message is crystal clear. The problem is the heavy-handed approach. It will undoubtedly offend those who view the film as patronizingly liberal. Thus falling into the same factionalized corners that prevent forward progress. A little subtlety would have gone a long way. Adam McKay could have turned down the vitriol just a tad. If the goal is to prove how far we’ve deviated from reason and common sense, then constantly slinging arrows just adds to the problem.
Don’t Look Up works on a purely comedic level. The film can be enjoyed dispassionately without the political themes. The top tier cast of Oscar winners revel in their satirical roles. Cate Blanchett stands out as a journalist that’s clearly based on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski. She has a subplot with Leonardo DiCaprio that’s absolutely hysterical. Stick around during and after the credits. Don’t Look Up is a production of Hyperobject Industries. It will have a limited theatrical release on December 10th. Followed by a global streaming premiere this Christmas Eve on Netflix.
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