“Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.”

Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay, David Sirota
Staring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet
Release Date: December 24, 2021

What is Don’t Look Up (2021) trying to be? Is it trying to be a satirical comedy? Is it trying to be a political drama? The latest Adam McKay funky mood movie is a mishit on many levels, most notably in its tone and lack of focus. Don’t Look Up has all the star power that you could want, but a loosey-goosey screenplay weighs down everything like an anchor dragging a cruise ship underwater.

Don’t Look Up is a story of two astronomers discovering that there is a giant meteor coming towards earth that will kill all of humanity. Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) try to educate the masses on their discovery, but are shoehorned by numerous different personalities, including but not limited to President Orlean (Meryl Streep), chief of staff Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill), technology big wig Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance) and television hosts Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry). Mindy and Dibiasky have to deal with scientific doubters, new fame and various self revelations all while an astroid is set to end the world. Among the tangible plot, Don’t Look Up blends a ginormous amount of social and political commentary, all with a very pointed agenda.

I have no issue with political comedic satire, but I do have one caveat. It has to be funny. For all of its faults, I never found Don’t Look Up funny in the slightest. Jonah Hill in particular, as the Chief of Staff and the president’s son, is despicable. He is playing a bit part, but the angle is over-the-top and the bro-macho casualness is unappetizing. He specializes and thrives in the cringe, which I despise.

The best comedic bit from Don’t Look Up stems from Mindy and Dibiasky’s first attempted meeting with the president. As they are waiting in the White House, General Themes asks the two scientists for money for water. Later Dibiasky discovers that the water and all the snacks are free in the White House. She is absolutely beside herself. There is then a callback later in the movie to this exact scene, and it was the most I laughed in the entire movie.

Jennifer Lawrence is the best part of Don’t Look Up. Of all the main characters, she plays the most logical and rational human. This all comes while she is the loudest and most bombastic. She does not have the “media training” that Mindy is able eventually adhere to…all be it to his own detriment. Lawrence is in need of a good spell of mvoies after winning an Academy Award and starring in a massive movie franchise. Her next movie is Bad Blood where she is cast to play Elizabeth Holmes. Will be curious to see how different it will be from Amanda Seyfried’s portrayal currently on Hulu.

Runner-up for best acting, and character, in Don’t Look Up is Timothée Chalamet’s performance as wandering youth Yule. He comes onto the scene and recognizes Dibiasky in a gas station, and soon the pair become good friends. As the world is coming to an end, Yule has the “who gives a fuck” attitude that Dibiasky vibes with. The pair become friends and when all things eventually come back full circle with Mindy, the trio act as the three musketeers in Mindy’s redemption. Chalamet has a presence on screen reminiscent of a young Brad Pitt. He is good looking. He is suave. He is confident. He is malleable. He can play a stoner boy at the end of the world, or a young adolescent in an experimental gay romance with an older man. Chalamet can do it all.

This is the least captivating that Leonardo DiCaprio has been since The Great Gatsby (2013). DiCaprio’s last two roles have both centered around anxiety ridden characters that are dealing with an aspect of fame. In Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (2019) he plays the over-thinking Rick Dalton who is dealing with a fading starlight. In Don’t Look Up the character is camera shy rather than camera starved, and he is dealing with new found fame and the inability to handle it.

The next thing Leo is latched to is Killers Of The Flower Moon (2022), which is led by Martin Scorsese and and written by Eric Roth, based off of a David Grann book. We have DiCaprio alongside Jesse Plemons, Robert De Niro, Brandan Fraser, and John Lithgow. Can’t wait for the movie’s eventual release sometime in 2022.

Another notch against Don’t Look Up is that it gave us a below par Meryl Streep performance. I know! It is crazy! She plays the ditzy Sarah Palin-reminding president who also is a reflection of Donald Trump from his presidency. Regardless if you are Republican or Democrat, the on-the-nose stamping of reality into the movie is not clever. It is another reason this screenplay falls apart; making a carbon copy of reality and putting it onto screen is not what we want as movie goers. At least not me personally. I go to movies for an escape from reality, not a reminder of what we have to live through. It isn’t funny.

Maybe I am getting self righteous with my takes here, but the lack of enthusiasm around the Don’t Look Up is not only spewing out of my fingers. Reviews are middling, and it was well known enough for Amy Schumer to make a joke at the Academy Awards.

I have to end this reaction with the question that is stuck in my mind: how was Don’t Look Up nominated for Oscars? It was up for four awards: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. Among my own nominations, Don’t Look Up had none what so ever. The only one I can maybe make an argument for is film editing because they had to make this screenplay (which I think is just bad) coherent and palatable to the audience.

One other note on the editing front. Don’t Look Up is edited with pace. The whole movie is speeding towards its finish and I hypothesize that it is going this fast because it has to brush past all of it flaws. It is like when you are working on a project for school and you know you aren’t going to finish in time so you just need to get a framework together to appear like you tried. McKay tried with Don’t Look Up, but the project he put together is like a presentation with structure. It’s ad-lib hawking.

Don’t Look Up goes down as one of the most disappointing movies I have seen in a long time. It is one of the most overhyped movies of 2021 and the award circuit. It is not worth revisiting by anyone who has seen it once, and it is barely worth watching once if you are debating it.

STANKO RATING: C+ (2.0/5 Stars)

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