Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah hill, Cate Blanchett, Timothy Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Tyler Perry, Michael Chili’s, Paul Guilfoyle, Kid Cudi, Mark Rylance, and Melanie Lyndsey.
Directed By Adam McKay
Where I Watched It: Netflix
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: Born obviously out of a lot of current events, two scientists (DiCaprio and Lawrence) embark on a journey to convince people that there is a.comet headed directly at earth and will cause an extinction level event.
What Works: You’ve probably already heard about this film, an you probably already have an idea of whether or not you think this film is for you. This film has been politicized to death, by audiences, media, and critics, which is actually kind of the thing the movie pokes fun at. So I’m not going to do that. The film works because Adam McKay went out and grabbed a ton of immensely talented actors, and just trusted them to create movie magic. In many ways, someone like Jonah hill was just told to be Jonah hill. It is refreshing to see DiCaprio try his hand at absurdist comedy, since he’s generally always trying to win an Oscar.
Hell, I even have to give props to Arian Grande, who plays a pop star named Riley, who in one of the stronger scenes of the movie is actually given a chance to sing the films likely Oscar submission for Original song, Don’t look up featuring Kid Cudi. The lyrics were on point, and it’s nice to think that we might have an Oscar contender here from a non-musical that still managed to feature the song during the movie instead of over the credits.
But, the scene stealers here are Jennifer Lawrence, who gives us so much in her restrained performance, allowing DiCaprio to truly go wild. Sure, she has her moments, but hers feel more grounded somehow, like she’s how all of us would react. Also, kudos to Mark Rylance as an eccentric billionaire, whose performance is just not getting enough attention.
There are some truly brilliant moments in this satire, stuff that wouldn’t even be considered politically divisive. Little things. Like, the casual mention to an upcoming interview with a contestant who just finished third on what is obviously a dig at Dancing With The Stars, whose claim to fame is that she was wrongly convicted. Or, the moment Jonah hill can’t read the room (which is every scene) and prays for stuff. Like, the world is ending, and he says a little prayer for all the inanimate objects he lovingly refers to as “dope shit”. It’s in these moments that the film truly soars as a satire, instead of what the other part is trying to do.
What Doesn’t Work: Well, sometimes, because it is trying to really make you think, the film dials it back a bit on the obvious satire, and becomes more contemplative, and loses its tone. these tonal shifts ultimately don’t work. I know Adam McKay has something very important he wanted to get across, but he’s also forgetting that he’s simply making a movie. and by trusting in the absurdity, he would have done the same thing. Some of it can be a bit heavy handed, and takes you away from more of the non sensical parts of the film.
I have to admit, Meryl Streep did nothing for me. I didn’t fully understand why they decided to make her kind of like a sleight version of Trump, but instead she comes across as muted. She’s far too calm and polite, and in almost every scene she’s in, so is Jonah hill, who is being given all the silly material. She’s just there to be Meryl. And she’s so much more than this.
Somewhere in the middle of the film, it feels a lot of noise is just going on, and the plot starts stalling as we’re just trying to drive home the idea that there is something to be learned from this film. i think about this film, and i compare it to something like Idiocracy, which never lost itself, changed tone, or needed characters to ever downplay the extremely absurd. It was pretty smart, and full force satire the whole movie. There was a plot, through which we saw all the points Mike Judge was trying to make, and it never over complicated itself. i wonder what this film would have been with mike Judge behind the directors chair. Probably, consistently funnier, and less moralistic.
But, this is Adam McKay’s baby, and while he’s proven himself incredibly adept at comedy in the past, he goes for a bit more of The Big Short mixture in here, a little Succession for you. I suppose you could call it high brow, thoughtful satire, but it just leads to some odd tonal shifts when you still have characters running in and out like Mark Rylance and Jonah hill.
mostly the film works, but there is something to be said for those others who have argued that at times, this film overshoots, and becomes too preachy for its own good, only with regards to maintaining consistency with the overall tonal structure of just how absurd this film should be received.
The Blind Perspective: oh boy, so I have to give this film a little bit of a pass, because the audio description for this film is not great. First time I’ve written this. The movie is easy to follow because it is so intensely dialogue heavy, but often you’re not able to tell which character is talking, because there are so many minor characters in this massive ensemble. And when people are talking, typically the AD doesn’t interrupt, so you can go a while without knowing what is happening, and I definitely felt like in some of these scenes it’s likely I missed something, or at the very least, couldn’t follow who was talking to who. Also, there’s a character introduced into the film who remains until the end, and because McKay didn’t bother to name him, the description keeps referring to him as the long haired man, and it annoyed the shit out of me. He was in too many scenes to not have a name, and if you’re trying to put a name to a face, looking up long haired man on IMDB isn’t helpful. He will eventually gain a name by the end of the film, but the length of time he was allowed to be referred to in such a disposable manner was lazy.
Final Thoughts: overall, I really enjoyed this. Even when the film keeps shifting gears, it still is entertaining, it just feels like it’s trying to wink wink nudge nudge a certain percentage of the viewers, with a “see what we did there?” McKay should have been less focused on making a film that felt perfect for 2021, and instead making a film that will transcend time. Idiocracy is still referenced today, because it works, whenever, wherever. so does Dr Strangelove. I’m just not sure Don’t look up will be something people are crazy about ten years from now. Or twenty.
Final Grade: B+