Don't Look Up Review: Things 'look up' for Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence's film before CRASH LANDING
Don't Look Up is filled to the brim with exceptional star power, but fails to stabilise its absurd 'woke' comedy within a crucial eye-opening message on climate change. Read Pinkvilla's review below.
Don't Look Up
Don't Look Up Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill
Don't Look Up Director: Adam McKay
Streaming Platform: Netflix
Don't Look Up Stars: 2.5/5
Leonardo DiCaprio. Jennifer Lawrence. Meryl Streep. Jonah Hill. Cate Blanchett. Even Timothée Chalamet and Ariana Grande, for Christ's sake! Are you enticed enough? Well, I was definitely amongst the majority who was eagerly awaiting Adam McKay's Don't Look Up as it boasted of a "too good to be true" ensemble of acting heavyweights. But did the cluttered cast with a grandiose narrative, interlaced with bouts of self-deprecating humour, pack a guaranteed Oscar nominee punch? Let's find out!
Our central protagonists Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), an astronomy grad student, and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), Kate's professor, discover a comet with cataclysmic tendencies, in direct collision with Earth, with a deadline of six months before literal human extinction. While the stakes are at an all-time deadly high, it seems like they're the only ones, along with Dr. Clayton Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (Yes! There actually is such a thing!), who seem to care about it. After a heated discussion with President Orlean (Meryl Streep), who doesn't even pretend not to be the female version of Donald Trump, and her obnoxious frat boy son, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill), also Chief of Staff, leads to nowhere, Kate and Randall embark on a hellish media tour to propagate their message, which colludes them with SNL-esque talk show hosts, Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) of The Daily Rip, keeping it "light, fun."
While a scandalous celebrity breakup between Riley Bina (Ariana Grande) and DJ Chello (Kid Cudi aka Scott Mescudi) gains precedence, with more screen time allotted, over the fact that they could all die, Randall is given a chance to be a science hero because of his supposedly dashing geeky looks, though Leo is made to look the opposite of that with his mid-life crisis professor avatar, while Kate is reduced to a screaming meme, what with her scarlet red hair and nose rings. Just at the pretext of a silver lining, we have Elon Musk--- I mean, Sir Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), founder of the tech giant, Bash, who decides to capitalise on the incoming comet as a source of resources or in his case, trillions. As expected, absolute mayhem ensues as it's a literal fight between those who are aiming to "look up" against those, who well, don't want to.
When you look at it from an onset point of view, Adam McKay and David Sirota's script is a clear cut message for the "ignorance is bliss" generation and how climate change, with the comet as an allegory, needs to be taken damn seriously. It's also a reality check over the effect that politics and media have on common folks, so much so, that they're more inclined towards nonsensical stuff rather than life-threatening catastrophes and finding ways to prevent or combat it. However, the dark humour used, where a mirror is shown to the condescending society at large, isn't in juxtaposition to the grave afterthought that the audience is expected to feel when the credits roll. We need to be humorously horrified, but in all honestly, you'll end up just being puzzled. Especially, at the questionable ending, with a bombastic post-credits scene, which is a major head-scratcher. While I was a bit intrigued, right until the middle, eventually, the s**t hits the fan and not the absurdly good kind! Even with that surprising cameo in place!
With such a terrific cast, you know you're bound for some knockout, meaningful performances; however, just as the overlapped narrative, most characters have a painstakingly caricaturish feel to them and are too jumbled to truly shine. As if it were on the memo to play obnoxious versions of the people they're portraying. That's not to say they weren't good because we have Jennifer, who delivered an earnest performance and managed to stand her ground with all that effervescent yelling of wasted youth while Leonardo DiCaprio played the opposite of his Jordan Belfort role, but with the same anxiety-driven conviction. The duo enables the excruciating claustrophobia their characters feel with great liberty. As for Meryl and Jonah, I can't believe I'd ever had to write this, but thank you, next!
Cate and Tyler, though comical, seem to atleast be having some fun while Mark, Himesh Patel as Kate's opportunistic ex-boyfriend Philip and Ron Perlman as American douchebag Benedict Drask play their parts to a T, well, it's as good as it gets anyways. When you have young, aspiring acting talents like Timothée Chalamet, playing Kate's goofy, skateboarding love interest Yule, and Ariana being reduced to playing characters which anyone else could have played, you know you've gone somewhere wrong. Rob and Melanie Lynskey, Randall's wife, are the much-needed calms before an overacting storm, yet also, the most underdeveloped characters, which is quite the shame.
What Don't Look Up's overambitious script malfunctions in, was rectified to an extent by the technicalities. With a runtime of 138 minutes, editor Hank Corwin's constant cross-cutting sequences help dial up the intensity to Randall and Kate's extreme bouts of disquietude, but at the same time, the montages reach their expiration date pretty early on as the social media woke-ness adds little to painting a dishevelled aesthetics. Linus Sandgren's POV cinematography on those motivating to "look up" helped establish just how ruinous the situation at hand is in parallel to the more exposed shots of characters who just don't give a damn or are transmitting the message of "don't look up." While Nicholas Britell's music was a welcome "rocky" addition, Ariana and Cudi's Don't Look Up isn't as tempting a tune to hum as it's promised to tease. Though Lawrence's rendition of Wu-Tang Clan's Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit needs to be seen to be believed!
Don't Look Up feels like a movie that's right up Adam's witty alley, given his previous smartly made hits like The Big Short and Vice. While he's able to add a satirical touch to the "astronomy" sci-fi genre without going with the overused trope of unlikely heroes saving the world, alas, it isn't in the same exceptional leagues as Dr. Strangelove. Period. In conclusion, I'd say - Listen to the title and DON'T LOOK UP, because all you'll be left with is a CRASH LANDING experience. Don't say I didn't warn you!