Effective satire in film is rather difficult to accomplish. Sometimes to make a point cinematically, you have to make it fun. Adam Mckay, the director of “Anchorman,” has accomplished something that’s equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. His latest film, “Don’t Look Up,” certainly has the laughs but will also leave you thinking. Two low-level astronomers (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawerence) embark on a global media tour to warn the world of a comet that will destroy the Earth. If you’re expecting a serious drama, you might want to look elsewhere because this is anything but.
McKay's filmography from his time with Will Ferrell to later efforts like "The Big Short" and "Vice" is a rollercoaster. It hasn't always worked, but how he presents his take on serious political issues or slapstick comedy is entirely inventive. Whereas in films like "The Big Short" and "Vice," you could feel him experimenting with different story techniques. Whether it be Margot Robbie breaking the fourth wall to explain Mortgage Backed Securities or simply colorful graphics explaining Dick Cheney's actions, his filmmaking style is creative. In "Don't Look Up," all of Adam McKay's filmography tricks are thrown at the wall.
Thankfully, the film's bombastic energy makes most of the tricks stick with the talent assembled. DiCaprio as the nerdy astronomer and Lawrence as the more street smart scientist, is a dynamic duo. Watching them travel around the U.S. is an absolute delight, even if the circumstances are massively detrimental. It's incredibly difficult to make an incoming tragedy entertaining, but this talent has pulled it off with a great central metaphor. DiCaprio himself is a huge advocate for climate change/global warming and was looking for a story to tell on the matter. When the film is more subtle about this message, it's absolutely razor-sharp and consistently funny. Especially with some pieces of casting that are so perfect, it's like we're watching pieces of real-world news on screen.
Meryl Streep, as the MAGA like President Jeanie Orlean and Jonah Hill as her Chief of Staff son, has a tough job. Being an obvious parody of the previous presidential administration will admittedly make some roll their eyes. While that can certainly be an understandable reaction, having Streep and Hill playing it big never felt bothersome. The same could be said for more minor roles like Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett as television hosts of "The Daily Rip." Where the only goal is to keep things as light as possible, even if the impending end of the world is near. These sorts of "winks" to the camera are scattered throughout, though they don't always work.
Two pieces of casting, in particular, feel like nothing more than unnecessary wedged in-jokes. The first is Mark Rylance as a Jeff Bezos/Steve Jobs-like figure Peter Isherwell. Rylance is undoubtedly one of the best actors working in the field today. His portrayal as this eccentric character is entertaining but feels like more of a caricature than a believable person. It's quite easy to see what Adam Mckay is trying to say with the character, but it feels like nothing more than an idea. The same could be said for actors like Ron Pearlman, Kid Cudi, Ariana Grande. Michael Chiklis and Timothée Chalamet. They're great actors given nothing more than roles that feel like parodies.
Which leads to the film's biggest problem, the screenplay written by Adam McKay. His career has morphed from slapstick comedies to funny but more serious social satires. Besides showing his creativity as a filmmaker, it's quite obvious to see where his personal beliefs lie. It's a very subjective piece of filmmaking that doesn't always land in the way it should. Its two-hour and twenty-minutes is jammed with ideas very subjectively. Despite agreeing with them or not, they're delivered in a way that's quite rapid fire. Before we can fully process one joke, we're hit with three others in rapid succession. If the screenplay allowed the audience to breathe from these exciting bits, it might make it a more memorable experience overall.
"Don't Look Up" is easily the most ambitious film 2021 has offered us in this closing month. It's got a lot to say, and thanks to this cast, it manages to deliver it in an entertaining way. Even with its rather lengthy running time, it's never a dull affair, thanks to its brisk pace. It's got an array of ideas to throw at us, and they don't all stick, but the journey is so enjoyable a lot can be forgiven. Whether in a theater or on Netflix, this mixed but energized film is one to see.
Watch The Trailer Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbIxYm3mKzI