For the past 70 odd years, Humanity has had to get to grips with the fact that our impending end may come entirely due to our actions, whether it be the Atom Bomb or provoking Mother Nature’s ire. In 2021, famed comedy producer Adam McKay vented the frustrations felt by himself, and a mass of concerned masses of other people trying to warn against the sky falling in, producing and directing the pointed comedy, Don’t Look Up.
When Astrology graduate student, Kate, discovers a new comet, it results in celebration from her team. However, the numbers do not look promising for the earth. In short, the planet has six months until an extinction-level event befalls the earth. As the scientists desperately try to get the message out, their desperate pleas are lost in a sea of vapid consumerism, meaningless signal-jacking, and personal issues. Can they keep their heads above the noise, to weather the encroaching apocalypse?
McKay’s recent work is no stranger to marrying comedy to controversial political topics whether he’s directing or producing, you can notice a post-modern playfulness in his more recent films. The meta-textual mirth has changed since Margot Robbie was in a bathtub explaining sub-prime mortgage bonds, and Don’t Look Up is full of examples. Some observations are astute enough to be almost painful e.g., a particular anti-intellectual tinge in how certain shows react to certain other serious or cerebral issues, to raise a cheap joke, that gets demolished in a very Network-esque sequence. It is also interesting, that this feels less of a retrospective, less the rise of Dick Cheney or the Collapse of the Stock Market, and more of a reactionary take on current events exaggerated to the extreme of course.
The film makes a captivating choice of fielding actors who, while having impressive resumes, aren’t exactly the first choices for delivering comedic lines. Yes, DiCaprio did have some great moments in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood… and does so here, from getting Dr. Mindy engrossed in internet flame wars and being seduced by Cate Blanchett’s T.V. anchor, Brie Evantee. While Jennifer Lawrence did well in Silver Linings Playbook, shows off her comedic potential with the weight of the impending apocalypse on Kate’s shoulders, puzzling why a General would charge her for free snacks at the White House. Other notable A-listers included Mark Rylance as the idiosyncratic tech entrepreneur, Peter Isherwell, is good for a giggle, even if his ideas aren’t the best for the continuation of humanity. Along with Meryl Streep as The President of the United States, in “both parties are the same” fusion of recent political figures, certainly lights up the room. Although it’s with Jonah Hill that you get the most bang for his comedic buck, who certainly puts his years of comedy experience to practice, extracting the best lines from the script. Heartthrob Timothée Chalamet does show up towards the latter half of the film, rounding up this ensemble.
Don’t Look Up is a surprisingly polarising satire, depicting the hyper-polarised landscape we view specific issues and our increasing apathy in face of solving said issues. McKay’s style is in its usual form, despite looking at a hypothetical future, versus providing a post-mortem ponder of the past. Don’t Look Up provides a star-studded ensemble of prolific A-listers, showing that they might be more adept at comedy than we first thought. Its silly reflections of modern society make for a sobering portrait that is as exasperatingly accurate as it is funny. Though at times it does feel like it is preaching to the choir, McKay shows that he is a firebrand.
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