Don’t Look Up – Review


Image from Netflix Studios

President Janie Orlean (Streep) rallying during her midterms, while a massive comet is headed directly towards Earth.

Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and her college professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) make a shocking discovery of a large comet headed directly towards planet Earth. To warn everyone and get the news out, they go on a tour, but nobody is listening. What will it take to get the world to just look up?

There’s something about Adam McKay’s style that just clicks with me. In his latest, “Don’t Look Up,” the dramatic moments with the politically satirical comedy can be heavy-handed. Perhaps it’s due to a recency bias, but this movie gave me some of the hardest laughs, and I would consider this one of the funniest films ever made. Truthfully, it’s funny in the most depressing way, because it is so scarily relatable to the world we currently live in. McKay’s direction for his past two “awards movies,” diverging from the strictly comedic, has ranged for me. His script channels all of the real-world frustration he has, and he has assembled the greatest and grandest cast on screen, consisting of forty-three Oscar nominations and eight wins,  and having every one of them playing against their typecast is absolutely brilliant. “Don’t Look Up” takes every shot it has at the President and the cabinet’s absurd decisions, as well as at the media’s lack of coverage of the “real” news. Instead, they are focused on celebrities and their uninteresting personal lives, and big business billionaires who don’t act as normal people do. The comet that is on a direct course to crash into and destroy Earth is an allegory for climate change, and it’s simply showing how certain factions of society respond to said event.

This was filmed during COVID, and I couldn’t imagine there weren’t changes made to specifically reflect on how our government chose to respond. The film as a whole is retroactively responding to years of chaos that failed to educate a divided society; the title even being a metaphor, mocking the Make America Great Again slogan and movement. Not everyone likes to be judged by just having a mirror held up to them – there’s a perfect explanation for why this movie is split directly down the middle in terms of reviews, and why there’s no middle ground. It’s either amazing or absolutely horrible for each audience member.

Image from Netflix Studios

Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his all-time best performances as introverted Dr. Randall Mindy, who discovered this planet killer with his Ph.D. student, Kate Dibiasky. He is the emotional core of the movie, but they don’t try to make him the hero, and he has his moral flaws. Throughout the film, he tries to control his rage as he attempts to get people to just look up, and the explosive scene he has live on-air reminded me entirely of Peter Finch’s annihilation in “Network.” This scene was made to be an Oscar clip.

Jennifer Lawrence is fairly engaging for being an actress I had lost all interest in for half a decade now. She’s used very well, and is given some extremely good jokes. However, she is slightly underdeveloped near the end for being the co-lead. Earlier on, her performance and reactions excellently represented how science is treated by the right-wing media.

Meryl Streep is doing a pale imitation of Trump and other modern conservatives, and even for objectively being the best actress in history, I cannot applaud her enough for giving it her all by responding to a Tweet where the former president called her “overrated.” As her son and Chief of Staff (a Jared Kushner comparison), Jonah Hill is quippy. Of the entire cast, he is the only one in a role he usually plays.

Image from Netflix Studios

The most bizarre performance in the movie is easily Mark Rylance’s: an Elon Musk-like “perfect specimen” technology business CEO. He completely disappears into this role. We live in a world where a President can choose to trust someone who’s fun and has a lot of money over the real experts offering negativity, and this is exactly shown in a scene where Rylance is lecturing DiCaprio in front of Streep. Rylance is introduced to provide a way where Earth can prosper and the comet can crash into the planet because they discovered a significant amount of profitable material on the rock. This finding causes them to abort the launch of all rockets sent up to destroy the comet, and, of course, this does not bode well for anyone in the film’s final moments. Without a planet to live on, fortune means absolutely nothing.

As Streep is to Trump, The Daily Rip is to a wildly conservative network who seems to turn their head at any negative information thrown towards those they’re supporting. Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett’s evil smile and consistent charm nail it as typical big-city news anchors. Blanchett is having a killer year with this film, as well as with her greatest performance ever in “Nightmare Alley.” Unlike Perry, she has much more to do here than I expected.

The remaining cast members all have very small roles, but each one makes a large impression. I liked Rob Morgan a lot in the more serious role as the head scientist trying to contain most of the madness occurring around him. Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi perform a parody song specifically written for this film, which is absolutely hilarious and I’m glad I held off listening to it until in the theater. Otherwise, their romantic scandal was not at all interesting – the exact point McKay was trying to make. Timothée Chalamet doesn’t show up until the end of the film, and he’s playing the character of whatever the Internet thinks he’s like in real life. Lastly, Ron Perlman is hilarious in the few scenes he’s in.

Image from Netflix Studios

This film has much more opportunity to score awards nominations in categories above the line rather than in the less competitive categories. In the lesser categories, I’m currently predicting it makes it into Best Visual Effects, Editing, Score and definitely a Song nomination for Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi. To me, it seems too easy for “Dune” to sweep in technical categories, so this (possibly overwhelming) editing could be an upset win. Above the line, for how self-aware it is, I hope this gets into Best Picture and Original Screenplay. This film would be my vote for Best Picture, and a certain Marvel movie that comes out soon (which is not getting a Best Picture nomination in a million years) is the only movie I see dethroning “Don’t Look Up” as my favorite film of 2021. DiCaprio seems like he’s getting in no problem. Meryl Streep isn’t exactly worthy of a nomination, but she’s Meryl Streep and makes up for half of the collective ensemble’s Oscar history, so she’s probably in. Since Adam McKay got in for “Vice,” it would be no surprise if he got in here, too. A nomination for Lawrence and Rylance are likely, but less so than the previous possibilities.

The film’s ending is incredibly impactful, and honestly emotionally resonates. The quick shots of nature to get you in the mood for the feels of what’s to come. Stick around for the absolutely insane post-credits scene, because despite how utterly unnecessary it was to show the outcomes of two major characters, it was yet another great moment where this film delivered on the humor.

“Don’t Look Up” features a wide variety of stellar performances from quite a few familiar faces. Adam McKay’s sense of humor continues to impress me. It’s very well-paced, and with something always happening, I was cruising through two-and-a-half hours of intellectual entertainment. Like a comet, this movie was a beautiful crash landing. “Must-see” is a strong term to use, and I rarely use it. However, I cannot stress enough that this film is a must-see. 


Final Grade: A+