On December 5th, Netflix released a film starring Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence called Don’t Look Up. The movie follows two Michigan State astronomers as they discover a world-ending comet and attempt to persuade both the government and the general public to care about their findings. Directed by Adam McKay, and featuring a big-name cast, this political satire attempts to portray the severity of current political, environmental, and social issues.
The beginning of this movie starts like any other disaster film. An earth-threatening event is discovered and reported to the government, but instead of viewing this event as catastrophic, the US president (played by Meryl Streep) gives the two astronomers a comedic and cynical response, essentially telling them to sit tight. This first interaction between Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Meryl Streep tries to show how our government continues to neglect the impacts of things like climate change and deadly diseases and instead are too busy worrying about reelection, public perception, and pushing their own political agenda.
Upon my initial screening of this movie, I found that the “message” around climate change or Covid or any type of disaster felt tired and played-out. There was very little attempt to give it a fresh perspective. While it is clear that it was meant to dramatize and poke fun at specifically the American government and public, by the midway point of the movie, the majority of the humor was repetitive and somewhat dull. Watching Jonah Hill portray the Head of State as a “Trump-assistant” type of character felt cringe-worthy and awkward, similar to Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio playing dumb and naive when the government doesn’t care what they have to say.
This movie did not fail comedically due to the performance of its actors, instead, it seems the initial writing lacked originality. With a cast as experienced as this, there was no question that every actor was going to deliver with great poise and charisma. However, when the writing falls short, there is only so much even the best actors can do. While the way in which humor is received is completely dependent on the recipient, I do believe the style of humor that continuously appears in Don’t Look Up is almost too forced to be funny.
While this review seems critical and filled with disappointment, my opinion is not the only one out there.
Film teacher Philip Chidel immensely enjoyed this movie.
“I loved Don’t Look Up, I just thought that Adam McKay, no one does political satire better than him, and all of the important messages it has to say about politics and the state of humanity, he handled it with energy and wit and humor and it was endlessly entertaining and endlessly important,” Chidel said.
This speaks to the vast array of opinions that surface when any new piece of political or social satire is produced.
Overall, given the current social climate, Don’t Look Up will inevitably cause everyone to have their own take on whether or not it did enough to cover the important topics, presented original humor, or simply delivered as a quality work of fiction.