[SPOILERS for Don’t Look Up]
“All of us, all of us are dead.”
With over 321 million views on Netflix, making it the service’s 2nd most viewed film, and a cast star-studded to the point of insanity, Adam McKay’s most recent film Don’t Look Up was an undeniable hit. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and dozens of other A-listers, the film is a satirical allegory on climate change in which a comet is in a collision course with the Earth, and astronomers Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky depart on a media tour to spread awareness about it.
Don’t Look Up is rather awkward. To make its blunt message even more serviceable, it injects the film with pop stars and unnecessary romantic subplots. Scenes with the likes of Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi are thoroughly unnecessary on a dramatic level, and fail to stick the landing on a comedic one. Romantic subplots with characters such as Cate Blanchett’s Brie Evantee and Timothee Chalamet’s Yule could be completely stricken for the film and impact nothing but the pacing (though Chalamet does have a notable final moment). And most of all, all of these auxiliary characters played by gargantuan names add a cumbersome and embarrassing air; for lack of a better word, a good portion of Don’t Look Up is “cringey.”
However, the film still packs a decent dramatic and comedic punch. It’s full of witty insights, from a joke about White House snacks to several memes of Jennifer Lawrence’s character, hilariously full of hyperbolized malice. Supporting players such as Jonah Hill, who plays the lazy and “hip” Chief of Staff, and Mark Rylance, portraying a tech billionaire feeble as a teddy bear yet maliciously determined to get his way are caricatures of people in our world, in the funniest possible way. However, the film is also dramatically satisfying. The film’s ending is deeply unsettling, portraying an utterly obliterated world due solely to the ignorance of the rich and powerful, mirroring our own climate change crisis in an unsurprising (yet still rather powerful) way.
The film’s themes about climate change are well-intentioned, but they have to be taken accountable for how useless they are. Absolutely nobody is going to watch Don’t Look Up and be inspired by its subtle-as-a-sledgehammer metaphors to take action. Writer-director Adam McKay seems to think that not only is this the case, but that the film could inform the world as to the (already evident) danger of climate change. This is clearly ridiculous. Anyone who watched this already taking the initiative to prevent climate crisis is not going to stop, but unfortunately, neither are the people ignoring it altogether.
Nonetheless, Don’t Look Up is a very good movie. And it is Leonardo DiCaprio who is the film’s saving grace. He elevates Don’t Look Up from a witty, unsubtle comedy with a big ensemble and snappy score to a truly amazing movie. So many of his scenes are incredibly poignant. The film’s best scene by a long shot is when, on the aforementioned talk show, DiCaprio’s character launches into a five-minute screaming monologue on the state of humanity. “My god, how do we even talk to each other? What have we done to ourselves? How do we fix it?” It is an undeniably phenomenal scene, and a breathtaking performance by DiCaprio. Another instance in which DiCaprio elevates the film is in its final scene, when he reportedly improvised a line which Adam McKay adored: “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” A very poignant line that adds a lot of much-needed thematic depth to Don’t Look Up, a call to action far more effective than McKay’s slightly clumsy satire.
I’ll give Don’t Look Up a Rea-ting of 5: an ineffective yet enjoyable satire with a phenomenal lead performance by Leonardo DiCaprio.