REVIEW: ‘Don’t Look Up’ is Painfully Funny

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There aren’t that many movies that leave me speechless, and usually, when they end, I have some reaction to them. But Don’t Look Up burrowed a void into my soul and left me in awe. Not because it was the apex of filmmaking or had the best performances of the year, but because it was satire executed so well that I couldn’t help but feel empty after watching it. Like good comedy, Don’t Look Up is funny because it’s true. And because this satire borders on some sick documentary that had me mouthing “oh god” multiple times, it’s also painful because it’s true.

Directed and written by with a story by , Don’t Look Up was set up to do great things. The film features a stellar cast in charismatic and depressing roles that, as a former academic married to a former scientist who worked on biofuels and living in the climate denial homeland of Texas, hit extremely hard.

Jennifer Lawrence is Kate Dibiasky, the young Ph.D. candidate who gets all the pain and none of the glory of a scientific discovery. She’s the scientist whose doom and gloom is catapulted by her sense of dread when hearing the ineptitude of society. Leonardo DiCaprio is Dr. Mindy, the tenured professor who moves anxiety-addled mess to the scientist just going along to get along, because well, at least someone can be in the room. And then you have the MAGA-inspired president with Meryl Streep, the news anchors allergic to bad news with Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry, and a whole slew of other characters that cross the uncanny valley of satire and historical in an uncomfortable way. The film also features Jonah Hill, Ron Perlman, Melanie Lynskey, Timothée Chalamet, and Himesh Patel.

In the film, Kate Dibiasky, an astronomy grad student, and her professor Dr. Mindy make an astounding discovery of a comet orbiting within the solar system. The problem — it’s on a direct collision course with Earth, and, well, no one really seems to care. For the film’s two-hour and 18-minute runtime, we watch as the pair tries to warn mankind about a planet-killer the size of Mount Everest and are told repeatedly that this fact is too inconvenient, not newsworthy enough, or just not well-timed. With the help of Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), we watch the pair go on a media tour that takes them from the office of an indifferent President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her immensely incompetent and unqualified son Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), to the airwaves of The Daily Rip, an upbeat morning show hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). With only six months until the comet makes an impact, we get to watch as it all just spirals down the drain.

Every character has moments and performances that illicit almost a visceral laughter from you, in the audience, because the only other option is to cry at just how awful everything is. I don’t even know how to review this film, to be honest. As much as the film lands everything from a technical standpoint, the film pulls out a reaction that is either going to leave you completely hating, completely in love with, or just somewhere in the land where you love it but will refuse to see it again –that’s where I’m currently residing.

In some ways, Don’t Look Up feels like a kitchen sink film made to do weird things with great actors. But at the same time, it’s also a salient mirror to what we have been experiencing with climate change and even the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. McKay shows off just how weirdly impactful celebrity culture is through Ariana Grande and the dangers of the equally weird tech-bro culture through a character that is a blend of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk. We see the apathy towards anything not driving social media interactions from the media, and leaders completely more-interested in stock prices, minerals, and the midterms to care about a planet-killing asteroid hurtling towards Earth.

Don’t Look Up is a kick in the teeth. It leaves you devoid of hope and shows the capitalistic and social obsessed world we live in, and that’s it. There is no greater meaning than “we suck.” And while this bleak film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, being married to a scientist means that I’ve heard this same hopeless outlook on the world for 8 years. Not because we can’t do anything to save ourselves, but because we’re choosing not to do anything to save ourselves.

In fact, Don’t Look Up is a hilarious comedy that made me immediately remember how useless the Paris Agreement was, how every country keeps making promises for 2050 and passing the buck to the next generation. The nihilism baked into this film is just that in a nutshell. It’s about the fact that despite mountains of data, we do nothing with it. We hoard vaccines, we refuse to save climate refugees, we further deplete natural resources, and we do it all by just thinking everything will be fine. We just sit here, worrying about celebrity marriages, and let the “bad news” be pushed out of our minds by something more immediate.

Don’t Look Up is a film that just burrows itself inside you and becomes a lens that you look at the world through. It’s hilarious because it’s not far off from the truth, and it hurts for the exact same reason. That’s why Don’t Look Up hits and why it’s both McKay’s most chaotic and well-crafted films.

Don’t Look Up is playing in theaters on December 10, 2021, and will be streamed exclusively on Netflix on December 24, 2021.


Don't Look Up
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    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Don’t Look Up is a film that just burrows itself inside you and becomes a lens that you look at the world through. It’s hilarious because it’s not far off from the truth, and it hurts for the exact same reason. That’s why Don’t Look Up hits and why it’s both McKay’s most chaotic and well-crafted films.

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