The human world – it is a mess.
Whilst we are in the middle of this continuing global crisis, sometimes art tries to reflect this. That can be exhausting – especially if it’s the rich and powerful telling us how bad the rich and powerful are. The thought of Adam McKay doing this feels especially unnecessary. However, to Adam McKay’s credit Don’t Look Up is smart and brilliant satire.
The film revolves around doctorate student Kate Dibiasky who, along with her mentor Dr. Randall Mindy, discovers an asteroid that is heading to Earth. If it hits, the repercussions would be catastrophic. However, the president and the press refuse to listen to them…
Don’t Look Up may have initially satirized the climate crisis but then a global pandemic came around. Whilst everything here feels so on the nose, McKay film others a bleak, bemusing, and brilliant look at a world hurtling towards disaster.
There are many famous faces in Don’t Look Up. It is an extensive list of Academy Award winners including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance, and Leonardo DiCaprio. There are also joined by nominees and glitzy stars such as Jonah Hill, Timothe Chalamet, Ariana Grande, and Kid Cudi. The cast is stacked, to say the least. They are fine in their roles and play well into the cynicism of the press and politicians. These are people at the top of their game, after all.
However, they are mostly lavish caricatures and at times, they can be tiresome. Especially when DiCaprio, who is good, but when the focal point of the film become about his twitchy Dr. Mindy, the film can become somewhat laborious. They are all equally funny but they need grounding. Enter Jennifer Lawrence. Of course, she is amongst the huge names and Academy Award-winners but her performance as Kate Dibiasky is fantastic. Kate serves as the films voice of reason, though she is often derided and treated poorly. Lawrence is so terrific and memorable here. She is compassionate enough that her frustration feels real. Her natural down-to-Earth persona lends well to her excellent comedic timing and when the whole world feels like a circus, you can understand why she feels the need to shout and scream. Kate is our conduit into the mayhem.
The biggest problem with Don’t Look Up is Adam McKay’s consistent brand of smugness which was completely unbearable in previous outings The Big Short and Vice. Coupled with the weird editing choices and stock footage, Don’t Look Up is a prime example of McKay’s over-blown ego and how that negatively impacts his films.
To counteract this, to the film’s credit, Don’t Look Up has some genuinely great human moments, particularly as the asteroid heads closer and closer to earth. The sequences that focus on those more gentle or emotional moments are the film’s best. Whether its Kate consistently troubled over an army sergeant’s actions, Melanie Lynsky’s character confronting her husband, or a big dinner gathering, McKay’s latest cinematic outing calms down and when it does, it can be compelling.
Don’t Look Up is one of McKay’s best. It is fun, informative, and with some brilliant performances. Plus, there is an incredible score by Succession’s Nicholas Britell. If you want to scream into the void along with your favourite actors, definitely do look this one up.