Don’t Look Up

Daniela McGill

Netflix’s highly anticipated new film Don’t Look Up, directed by Adam McKay, is a very dramatic satire on current hot-button issues, and an attempt at a big smack in the face to American viewers. With one of the shiniest star-filled casts in a film this year, the movie comes off as a shrieking cry for attention, and while well-intended, misses the mark it was made to hit. 

The piece opens with doctoral astronomy student Kate Dibiasky, played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, discovering a comet whose trajectory is shown to hit Earth. After showing her anxious professor Dr. Randall Mindy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, they set off to tell the president of the United States, a very direct blow to the previous administration, played by Meryl Streep. She shows no significant urgency and triggers the mission of the pair of scientists to convey to the nation what is about to come.

The whole backbone of the movie is Adam McKay and David Sirota’s metaphor for climate change, represented by the comet, and the public’s lack of urgency when it comes to the matter. What the movie fails to recognize is how nuanced the issue of global warming truly is, and completely oversimplifies the issue to divide those who take it seriously, and makes fun of the idiocy of those who don’t. Because of this, the film falls flat when it had serious potential to begin a real conversation. What the movie does is validate those who already agree with the point of view depicted, and ridicule the people who don’t.

Oversimplification also happens with the portrayal of the media, which is represented by a talk show with anchors played by Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry, and the critique on material focus on the world of celebrities. Right before the scientists were going to talk to the reporters, they interview Riley, a pop star played by Ariana Grande, and the segment ends in a major surprise for the characters, which create a huge media buzz, completely taking any possible attention away from the comet. 

While this is a valuable insight into the American fixation of huge pop culture figures, it overdoes it and doesn’t give acknowledgment to the world of political reporting, besides an obnoxious nod to conservative reporting. The biggest issue with the feature is that the writers chose too many targets to attack in a two-hour segment. Because of this, the movie loses its effectiveness.

On the lighter side of things, despite the lack of deep personas or much significant character development, the actors did a beautiful job of portraying the flat characters they were given to work with. There are lots of laughs throughout, a lot of them thanks to Jonah Hill, who plays the President’s creepy son who is also the Chief of Staff. The friendships and relationships developed between characters are captivating to watch and ironic at times. It’s also interesting to see the depictions of everyday life satirized. 

All in all, the movie is a messy jab at the state of our country. The project felt clumsy and disorganized and seems to have completely fumbled under the pressure of such anticipation. However, seeing the oh-so-familiar faces throughout makes it somewhat bearable, if the plot is completely ignored. Don’t Look Up is now available to stream on Netflix. Feel free to comment your takes on the movie.