Don’t Look Up: an out-of-this-world satire

Adam McKay’s disaster comedy is jam packed with absurdity but unnecessarily long and will only appease a very niche audience

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Grace Nugent

Don’t look Up, directed by Adam Mckay, of Talladega Knights and Step Brothers fame, premiered in theaters Dec. 10 and was released for streaming on Netflix Dec. 24. It recived mixed reviews and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 56% and an audience rating of 77%.

From the mind of Adam McKay comes a movie that is based on “truly possible events”: Don’t Look Up.  McKay (The Big Short, Talladega Knights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers) pairs his expertise of comedic timing with his newfound talent and love for directing drama, intertwining the two genres to create a star-studded, scathing satire about the end of the world. 

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence lead as Dr. Randall Mindy and Ph.D. candidate Kate Dibiaski who, after discovering a planet-killing comet is hurtling towards Earth, go on a frantic press/national security breaching tour to warn the world. DiCaprio and Lawrence are joined by a multitude of stars such as Timothee Chalamet, Jonah Hill, Kate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Mark Rylance, Rob Morgan and (the GOAT) Meryl Streep–not to mention delightful and somewhat confusing scenes with Kid Cudi and Ariana Grande. 

The movie is absurd, there is no denying that. Its greatest and most preposterous moments are shown in director-sanctioned montages, a bit revolving around free snacks at the White House, eccentric characters, hairstyles and musically aided ambiance. While we don’t have time to unpack all of that (John Mulaney anyone?), similar to the movie, this review will be slightly chaotic. 

Don’t Look Up is what you expect, plus so much more that you didn’t even realize you could piece into a movie that is about astronomers. ”

I came into this film with two predictions: 1) that it was going to be out there, as both Timothee Chalamet and J-Law are sporting mullets and Jonah Hill is the White House chief of staff. 2) the movie would eventually have to comment on how Leonardo DiCaprio is an attractive and charismatic actor, as it is not believable to have ‘90s heartthrob, Jack himself, playing a fumbling and bumbling astronomer the entire time.

I was correct on both accounts. 

Don’t Look Up is what you expect, plus so much more that you didn’t even realize you could piece into a movie that is about astronomers. 

The budget for this film was $75 million (for reference the average Marvel film costs $190 million), and McKay’s cinematography and interspersed montages of people, plants and human life in general make this movie feel like a very high-budget film despite its barely over mid-level price tag. All of this cinematic artistry is, of course, aided by some stellar performances from its stacked cast. 

All the Kid Cudi fans can rejoice, because there is a musical number with him and Ariana Grande. After viewing the documentary A Man Named Scott (highly recommend, by the way), I was very much looking forward to watching Cudi take the stage in a major motion picture, and I was not disappointed. Even with very little screen time, he fleshes out the theme of pop culture and materialistic society over science and impending death.

While screen time for some is limited, each character adds layer after layer to the satirical cake that McKay has built for viewers. 

While screen time for some is limited, each character adds layer after layer to the satirical cake that McKay has built for viewers. ”

And who doesn’t love ludicrousness and commentary on the stupidity of politics? Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill certainly embody this as the mother-and-son president and chief of staff duo–nepotism, folks. Between political scandals, all-around tomfoolery and a performance in a character that was really unexpected for Streep, these two were a delight to watch, and dislike. Streep settles extremely well to the role of unqualified president who may or may not doom the world with conspiracy spreading and reckless decision making.

The stereotypical conniving characters that embody a fundamental societal issue do not stop at politics as Mark Rylance portrays Sir Peter Isherwell, an amoral tech billionaire (sound familiar?)

It may be just my interpretation of the film, but in my two watchings, some questions arose, and I found myself perplexed at some scenes. It is a stretch at two hours and 25 minutes, and could have totally been cut down by 30 to 45 minutes. Some things are unnecessary to the story and character arcs. Note to Adam McKay: not every little idea has to be included. That is not to say that the entire movie is undecipherable and absolutely batshit crazy. 

Between all of the screaming, panic and overall depressing content, this movie still has nuggets of both comedy and tenderheartedness. The bond between Mindy, Dibiaski and head of the Planetary Defense Coordination office Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) made me believe in humanity and love despite the rest of the calamity and chaos that unfolds on the screen. So did Timothee Chalamet as Yule, a millennial who can skateboard and “has some church game.” 

If you like disarray and mayhem, this film is for you. If you are an avid satirical cinephile, you will probably enjoy this film. ”

If you’re up for the unnecessarily long run time and slight depression you feel by the end of the film, then it’s worth a watch. If you are an Adam McKay lover this should be on your watch list. If you’re a tremendous fan of one of the actors, or just want to see Timothee Chalamet wear camo, or Jonah Hill carry a handbag, this film is for you. If you like disarray and mayhem, this film is for you. If you are an avid satirical cinephile, you will probably enjoy this film. 

If you fall into any of the camps listed above I would recommend a rendezvous with this film. If you do not fall into any of the above camps, you do not need to spend over two hours of your life watching this movie.