"Don't Look Up" (Review)
Writer director Adam McKay has made a career of satirizing American institutions from Television news anchors ("Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy") to NASCAR ("Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"). He made a shift in genres when he made "The Big Short" and "Vice." "The Big Short" was a retelling and explanation of what happened during the 2008 economic meltdown. "Vice" was a biographical picture of which Mr. McKay tried to point a spotlight or at the very least record in the annuls of American cinema the history of the one individual who had a heavy influence on the wrong turns the United States made early in the Twenty-first century. Mr. McKay has once again turned toward American history to make a satirical film about the flaws of this country with "Don't Look Up."
The film starts off conventionally as most disaster movies do with a couple of scientists making a profound discovery. In this case its Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiaski (Jennifer Lawrence). They run to their superiors who in turn bring it to the attention of our National Security Department. That's when the train comes off the rails. They are given an audience with the President of the United States (Meryl Streep) who is preoccupied with more imperative matters (for herself) and places the destruction of the Earth on the back burner. The scientists then turn toward the media and find their message being dissected and interpreted many different ways. The media of course is handcuffed since it needs ratings to make money and upbeat and positive stories increase ratings. Another obstacle to their message is a new phenomenon in journalism that much attention has to be paid to on "The other side of the story" even though it might be wrong.
It doesn't take long to figure out what Mr. McKay has made with "Don't Look Up." He's making another recording of a moment in time when the United States was unable to come together to defeat a common foe. What makes this film different is not that it looks back on past events but shows a state of mind that is relevant today, at this moment. We have not moved forward and the points he makes, like "look! There is the comet headed toward Earth!" while a lot of the population will still not believe it, is too real for satire to make a dent in the situation.
The fun of "Don't Look Up" is its cast. Mr. DiCaprio is perfect. He's at his best when his character's conundrum has to be solved with intelligence and not physical force. I was never convinced in his casting for "Blood Diamond," "The Aviator" or "The Revenant." His abilities work much better when he's playing cat and mouse as in "The Departed" or holding together a plantation in "Django Unchained" and trying to steal as much money as he can while eluding the F.B.I in "The Wolf of Wall Street." His Dr. Randall is a guy who believes he's done a service to his country and wants to help. When he gets caught in the maze and can't find any sense in his preposterous predicament, he slowly goes mad. Mr. DiCaprio's meltdown is worth the price of admission.
Ms. Lawrence is spot on playing his partner. One not to mince words she's the bull in the China shop not afraid to cut through the nonsense. It reminded me of her role in "Winter's Bone" and it added much needed gravity to "Don't Look Up." It's hard to believe that Ms. Streep hasn't played a certain type of character yet but while watching you realize she's doing something fresh. She's the dim-witted president and pulls it of marvelously (what else?). She's having a lot of fun playing this role and you have to wonder it its pay back for being called "a non-talented actor" by a certain president. The teaming of Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry as the news show co-hosts are so good they're infuriating, showing exactly how our media avoids what's serious and avoids getting too intellectual so as not to alienate the simple minds of the country.
"Don't Look Up" doesn't cater to the simple minds and goes about its business like its two protagonists- trying to alert everyone about how far our country is falling and denouncing those who say it isn't so. By the middle it gets tiresome and I don't want to see a metaphor of what I can wake up to the next day and read from in the papers. But the cast is brilliant and drives the story forward. They're able to electrify each scene which is what kept me there until the end.