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‘Don’t Look Up’: Unlike the comet, it missed the mark

| Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Makayla Hernandez I The Observer

If you’re looking for an escape, don’t look up “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix. Directed by Adam McKay — whose previous releases include “The Anchorman” and “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” — the film initially had a good premise for comedy gold: a comet is definitely going to hit earth, so how will humanity react? It features an all-star cast including, but not limited to, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill and everyone’s favorite Victorian-era looking moody brunette, Timothée Chalamet.

But despite this incredible potential, the film somehow manages to crash and burn. The jokes and some of the character development come off as predictable and/or cringe-worthy. Moreover, the satire feels a little too real. I did not leave the movie feeling inspired to do something about issues facing our world, like the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change (which is what the movie satirizes). Instead, I felt more fatigued than ever as I watched two scientists warn a world of people too focused on themselves to see the bigger picture.

The opening of the film promised a refreshing style of direction with close ups of Lawrence’s character, Kate Dibiasky, finding the comet and Dicaprio’s Dr. Mindy realizing what the math of the comet’s trajectory means — in front of his celebrating students, no less!

However, as they go to tell others about the discovery, the style begins to lose the power of the close up. As a result, the impact of the characters’ emotions is minimized, and audience members are left feeling distant from the scientists as the President of the United States and media outlets try and skew the comet to their benefit. If this was a directing choice to reflect the warping of the human emotion concerning the comet, it worked.

That being said, the movie had one too many montages for me, each feeling more tiresome than the last. Admittedly, they did contain some nuggets of humor, such as when Dr. Mindy yells “we’re all going to die!” while on a show meant for children. However, most of the funny quips in the movie fell short. A line delivered by Kate’s mother — “your dad and I are for the jobs the comet will provide” — hit too close to home. Honestly, I groaned when I heard it.

The actors in the film also felt like caricatures, even though character development was attempted. DiCaprio’s Dr. Mindy is a prime example of this. His character offered promise at the beginning of the film as a midwest professor who is happiest in the lab and confident with numbers. However, his arc became predictable when he was accepted by the media more than his colleague, Kate, thereby becoming the ‘Dr. Fauci’ of the comet crisis.

While DiCaprio definitely has the chops to bring depth to this nerdy character, his arc places him back into a character that I would consider “safe” for him. We get it: under that beard, Leo is still Leo. Still, is the punchline of his character seriously “Astronomer I’d Like to F**k?”

Timothée Chalamet’s character, Yule, also allowed him to remain within his comfort zone. While his anarchist character did provide some moments of surprise for the audience — such as his surprise practice of Evangelical Christianity — I feel like the overall predictability of his character represents a larger lack of inventiveness.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Kate, too, is hilarious at times, but she plays a Katniss-like character: an activist who is a thorn in the establishment’s side. The star power in this film is enormous (I mean, hello, they got Meryl Streep to play an ego-centric president). However, each star remains within their comfort zone, and therefore fails to push any boundaries with their character.

“Don’t Look Up” forces its audience to imagine an apocalyptic event more outlandish than the events of 2020 and 2021. As much as we can relate to the characters as they face the end of the world, the satire ultimately falls flat because the world created through the movie’s script cannot compare to the exhausting (and real) trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One final note: I think the film’s slew of social media montages should have featured Bo Burnham in some sort of cameo. Just listen to “How the World Works” and “Bezos I” from that special, and you’ll get the point of this movie in five minutes rather than having to sit through the full two hours and 25 minutes.

Title: “Don’t Look Up”

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep

Director: Adam McKay

If You Like: “INSIDE,” “The Anchorman,” “The Big Short”

Shamrocks: 2/5

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