At the start of the year, Netflix through a short teaser, delivered a bold promise to their subscribers and fans — to dish out new content every week for the entire year. To the best of their ability, the streaming juggernaut was able to keep up with their huge vision by providing blockbuster films and shows throughout the entire year — with a couple of definite standouts whether on a positive or negative note. I vividly remember however that teaser specifically due to one momentous scene which featured two huge Hollywood stars. The said scene featured Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, the stars of the dark-comedy film, Don’t Look Up.
The reason why I found Don’t Look Up to be appealing early on despite having zero knowledge of the plot details was due to the historic nature of DiCaprio and Lawrence’s tandem. Two Academy Award winners together with their long individual lists of great portrayals and films were enough to provide excitement even for an entire year’s worth of waiting. Throughout the year, the plot of the film started making sense with Don’t Look Up diving into the dark-comedy genre and with director Adam Mckay (Anchorman, The Big Short) at the helm, everything was set in place for a fun, exciting, and promising film. To top it all off, Netflix decided to wrap Don’t Look Up with a nice little Christmas bow being released exactly a day before Christmas. With an opportunity for viewers to catch this film during the holidays, the pressure for Don’t Look Up was definitely on an all-time high.
Don’t Look Up Overview
Don’t Look Up revolves around an astrology professor, Dr. Randell Mindy (DiCaprio), and his Ph.D. student, Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) as they uncover a literally earth-shaking discovery in the form of a comet. The comet is set to collide with our planet in six months reducing Earth into a pile of ash and rock while destroying all signs of life in the process. Within the next six months prior to the comet’s arrival, Dr. Mindy and Kate, together with NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office head Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe, take on the seemingly daunting task of warning every human being regarding our impending doom. The task is further complicated due to the uncooperative U.S. government officials and tech conglomerate CEOs who have various self-seeking motives.
In addition to DiCaprio and Lawrence, the cast of Don’t Look Up is further rounded out by equally talented Hollywood A-listers such as Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Cate Blanchett, and many more.
Don’t Look Up Spoiler Warnings
We decided to watch Don’t Look Up as soon as it dropped on the popular streaming service, the day before Christmas, in order to dish out our critique and thoughts on this very interesting story.
In this review, we will look at the effectiveness of Don’t Look Up as a satirical commentary through its story, cinematography or visuals, and the phenomenal list of actors and actresses that were showcased in this film. For the most part, we will keep this review free from spoilers however our in-depth discussion of the film’s satirical nature may contain some broad strokes that may tend to be a bit spoiler-y, so we suggest that you still proceed with caution.
All Eyes On The Dicaprio-Lawrence Tandem
Don’t Look Up as mentioned is the first time that Leo and J-Law join forces for a film and without a doubt, they do not disappoint. Unlike any performance that we have seen from Dicaprio, his portrayal of Dr. Mindy is truly provocative and unique — perfectly depicting a somewhat morally torn scientist. Dr. Mindy is a man uncertain of his principles. The fame and his growing popularity create a back and forth progress in morality which is a unique take for character development. It’s not just a forward progression of growth but Leo steps in to deliver a man who just like the chaotic world around him is also in a pendulum-like swing in terms of integrity and morality. This pairs beautifully with Jennifer Lawrence’s Kate, who isn’t really the moral compass amongst the two but is rather a sturdy wall in terms of her beliefs. Kate is paradoxically sure of where she stands with the global crisis while also being unsure of the impact that they could do to really change the situation that they are in.
This tandem just absolutely works. The chemistry is on point as it brings together two characterizations that couldn’t be farther apart but simply just work to complement one another. Their tandem as characters and actors carry the entire movie to a level where viewers would find empathy as well as a hint of exasperation. Just like how DiCaprio and Lawrence end up screaming from the top of their lungs in frustration, the same emotion is extracted from a viewer’s perspective.
The focal point of such a tandem however doesn’t take away from the other cast members who also step up to support the story. That’s what makes Don’t Look Up so intriguing to watch and consume altogether. Mark Rylance for example delivers an eerily haunting portrayal of an awkward and maniacal technological mastermind and CEO. Every time he opened his mouth there was an almost scary appeal to his geeky and aloof personality which just added so much color and vibrancy to the movie. It’s also equally interesting to see Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill as the mother and son/president and Chief of Staff tandem as they create characters that you really want to hate and despise.
Overall, the cast did a fantastic job to bring something new individually and collectively although I did feel at times that their star power and popularity were used to just draw a bigger viewership. Nonetheless, it was still a sight to see that not a single person went in to completely steal the spotlight for themselves.
A Chaotic Flow
Admittedly there were inconsistencies in the story and overall visual direction of the film. Some of its parts were better than its whole sad to say. The first couple of scenes gave me the feeling of Wolf of Wall Street which immediately piqued my interest. The b-rolls and seemingly out-of-place environmental clips were aesthetically brilliant to see. It kept the film engaging but then it also came to a point of being overused. They were too consistent and didn’t really spice things up anymore once the film got to its second half. It would’ve been great to see some variety along the way. Therefore visually it was a bit chaotic to the point that consistency felt like it was too forced, eventually ending up becoming a bit of a mess.
The story also tried to juggle so many things all at once. It’s understandable due to the nature of the actual message of the story but the execution could have been dealt with more finesse. There was a point after the initial setup and plot twists that made it hard to truly follow what the film really wanted to tackle. It was as if viewers were listening to a very moving speech with so many points that it just became hard to follow. In addition to the many points, Don’t Look Up was a bit too intense at times as if it was screaming its story and main points, just like Dibiasky and Dr. Mindy, so loudly being incoherent at times.
The ending of this film also points to how chaotic it truly was. I’m talking specifically about the mid-credits and post-credits scenes which were done to be comedic but ended up failing. It was an ending still filled with subliminal meaning and a dark and hefty warning if you will for viewers but it took away from the severity of the subject matter at hand. This was where the lighter tones and comedic nature of the film somehow downplayed the severity and weight of the message at times.
However, this is where the beauty of Don’t Look Up kicks in. The moment that us, as viewers, take a step back to allow the film’s message to marinate, is when it all starts to make sense to create a huge impact on the way that we think.
A Socio-Political Commentary Of A Film
Director Adam Mckay is not your run-of-the-mill comedic director but one who for the most part provides substance that pairs perfectly with the laughs. His style is far from mindless slapstick, punchlines, and easily understandable humor, as each joke is meant to create a heavy-handed impact and statement. Simply put, it’s an intellectual comedy. As the moments of laughter fade, viewers are left to think about the entirety of what they had just seen. This is an even bigger case for Don’t Look Up and is honestly the most different in pacing, tone, and mood from the director’s previous works. As mentioned Don’t Look Up is, by all means, a commentary of the social and political climate that we live in today. Although the plot of the story takes place in the United States, the relatability factor transcends culture and geography.
At the center of the film’s plot are two scientists whose journey in disseminating the news of Earth’s eventual doom is hindered by world leaders and business-minded CEOs which begged me to question the inspiration behind such characters. First off, we have a misguided President Janie Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, who is a caricature-like character with a misguided sense of leadership heavily founded on popularity rather than service. President Orlean is intended to be one of the comedic jabs on the political systems of many countries, maybe including our own, but specifically that of the United States as she portrays an overly exaggerated version of President Biden, Trump, and Hilary Clinton. The seemingly ridiculous nature of an overly blinded president is even further enhanced when Mark Rylance’s character, the editorial cartoon version for our modern-day Elon Musk, enters the picture. The impact that this character plays is astronomical in nature due to the ridiculous twist of events that he creates which are all centered on the power of capitalism.
This is what Don’t Look Up actually offers — A different look into three powerhouses that occur in our world today; capitalism, political influence, and the power of media. Amidst the chaotic undertakings that the actual characters go through, there is a clear misguided sense of priority. Even amidst the ongoing chaos and impending doom, celebrity breakups, political popularity, and corporate hidden agendas are first on the list. Sounds familiar? Viewers are given a chance to see all of these chaotic and triggering scenarios as a means to reflect and inspect the state of the world we live in today.
At the heart of this satirical movie is the message that it provides which is heavily rooted in environmental advocacies and the complexities and impact of politics and media. This seems to be heavily anchored on DiCaprio’s personal advocacies as well but one that truly speaks volumes through the visual art form. It’s a film aimed to satiate our minds and be an open door for conversations to occur more than being just entertaining which at some points it still very much is. Don’t Look Up is truly an inculcation of what the dark-comedy genre stands for as it perfectly unites the depressing and grim story with comedic and almost cartoonish elements and portrayals.
Don’t Look Up Review Final Verdict
Despite having its fair share of flaws and inconsistencies, Don’t Look Up has the makings of being a very powerful statement film for our generation — being both prolific in its message and creative in its delivery. Indeed it’s a chaotic film that depicts the chaos that we also find ourselves in today, which for some reason still allows the message to take over to shun all the chaos aside. For that very reason, we dub this as a must-watch film — one that must be fully digested properly in order for its heavy yet timely themes to sink in.
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