Don't Look Up

Don't Look Up ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

This is Adam McKay's best film. It'd be one thing if the entire movie felt like a lecture (I love Vice and The Big Short, but both films admittedly slip into this tendency) - but there is real emotional heft to this thing.

At first glance, it appears the entire film may be DiCaprio and Lawrence exhaustively warning the powers-that-be of the impending natural disaster. But then McKay turns it in an interesting direction - DiCaprio's character gets attracted to the limelight and is subsequently caught up in the media frenzy, leaving Lawrence on the sidelines as the pouty doomsday girl. One of the more emotionally affecting scenes in the film is straight out of Sidney Lumet's Network (1976) - DiCaprio's wife (Melanie Lynskey) confronts him in a hotel room about his infidelities with Megyn Kelly-lite (Cate Blanchett). And, just as William Holden does to Beatrice Straight in Lumet's film, DiCaprio brutally cuts ties with his devoted spouse in favor of a relationship with a more exciting and utterly vapid creature of television.

Even the characters who are on the side of science get distracted by the more entertaining news dominating the airwaves - the break-up of a music power couple, the President's illicit affair with her good ole boy Supreme Court appointee, the launch of a new smartphone. This is the world we've created.

Ultimately, Don't Look Up leaves us with an appropriately icky feeling. All of the exasperation, laughter, frustration and anger (both on our and the characters' parts) gives way to the inevitable - the ultimate silencer, in which all of the politicians, scientists, news pundits and comet-deniers meet the same indiscriminate fate (well, except for the shuttle that launches the President and other high-profile dignitaries into space before the impact). This final sequence - in which, yes, the world indeed ends - culminates in a moving dinner amongst the level-headed astrologists. While they choose to spend their final moments breaking bread with family, everyone else is panicking, the reality of the situation finally catching up to them. Of course, it's too late.

Here is a great example of a filmmaker getting maximum mileage out of his all-star ensemble. Too many films with packed casts invariably waste the talent involved - but here, every big name gets ample opportunity to showcase their range. In particular, DiCaprio is wonderful, working in a comedic mode of which we're thankfully getting to see more and more. Other standouts include Meryl Streep as the Trump-ian President and Mark Rylance as a socially inept tech billionaire (who seems to have trouble even being in the same room as other people).

What the hell are critics smoking? Not since Alexander Payne's Downsizing (2017) has a go-for-broke film received such a muted, outright dismissive response. It's disheartening.

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