December 23, 2021

SCREEN | Leonardo DiCaprio Panics Hard – 'Don't Look Up'

"I'm grateful we tried."
Jennifer Lawrence Timothée Chalamet Adam McKay | Don't Look Up | Netflix
Hyperobject Industries
Comedian turned activist filmmaker Adam McKay continues an ambitious streak of absurdist political satire in his latest climate disaster tragicomedy. Don't Look Up tries very hard to be deadly serious in its ridiculous humour not unlike something like Dr. Strangelove, but its messiness only weakens any good intentions and a core message about human self-destruction.

Superstars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence lead a star-studded cast of heavy hitters who send up everything from cable news to the catastrophic effects of climate change, celebrity-obsessed media, and unfettered corporate greed. Famous faces like Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, and Cate Blanchett show up in mostly hammy roles to mine topical humour. A very broad Meryl Streep co-stars as the President conjuring a thinly-veiled version of Trump's unabashed narcissism while Mark Rylance's oddball parody of the maniacal tech CEO could easily be a James Bond villain in a totally different film.

DiCaprio seems like the only one fully committed to the act with a speech halfway through clearly aping Howard Beale from Network as the straight man astronomer desperate to warn the public about an apocalyptic event while the plethora of all-star celebrity cameos gets dizzying fast. An exasperated Lawrence gets shafted as the voice of reason character, sort of moulded from the long-suffering wife archetype, as a vessel for the next generation of adults tasked with solving the previous one's disastrous policies.

There's just so much scatological yet self-important humour McKay seems uninterested in balancing without a clear throughline to really follow aside from the fact we're basically we're all f*cked. Don't Look Up is something only clearly very smart and talented people could have made, but they cannot get out of your own way. Critic Katie Walsh summarily described it as the focus group scene from McKay's previous work, Vice, extended to a whole 2½-hour long film. It's not an inaccurate description as the film very much resembles a very long Saturday Night Live sketch with an equally unsatisfying ending.

Don't Look Up screens at the Rio Theatre and will be available to stream on Netflix starting December 24th.

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