Don’t Look Up (2021)

⭐⭐ (2 stars out of 5)

Don’t Look Up (2021) Directed by Adam McKay

There is nothing more exasperating than watching a film that indiscriminately believes with all shameless assurance that it is a witty movie, more optimal would be to specify it as a silly mimicry of something even more clumsy; it is not that its metaphorically explicit view at a cataclysmic end to our existence is ridiculous, it is the unwelcome implausibility that surrounds this entire production. Worst of all, those who are positively inclined to give it a deeper observation of the themes along with the psychotic comedy contained in the plot justify the ponderous imbecility by saying it’s a satire…oh really?! It never occurred to me to have thought of that.

From the adrenaline-fueled opening we are blatantly told that it is highly satirical of the disgraceful sociopolitical stolidity of our times, for this film subtlety does not exist. But let’s recapitulate again, the fact that the cartoonish exaggeration pretends to give a sermon with an environmentalist attitude does not necessarily mean that it is an intelligent and necessary message, and by necessary I mean that its philippic writing amalgamated with hysterical comedy at no time treats its boring sarcastic freneticism with transcendence, so if the treatment is minimal, why should we give relevance to so much narrative garbage that dramatizes human ethics and dehumanizes the negative aspects of who we really are. But it’s not enough to just look at the thoughtless narrative and its moralistic consequences, the disorganized execution is excruciating, frustrating and perpetually irritating, to say tedious would be too kind, it’s so catastrophic that the formal aggressiveness alone feels more apocalyptic than the themes of the film itself. Irremissible insert shots to the point of confirming to us that dryness also comes from the vast amount of superfluity in every instant of visual dissonance that unfortunately monopolizes the entire film making it even more inert, foolish details like leaving for two measly seconds shots as brainless as an insert of a boot, yes, for some reason this film has a fascination for the human anatomy.

To be fair, perhaps the editing had obvious decisions to add a neurotic energy to show the nervousness of a situation of such shocking magnitude, yet the metric cuts intrude by vulgarizing with extreme fury what is already overdone. I would be a complete liar if I said the film was an entire sequence of unhinged mayhem, it is not; incredibly it compacts a resonant human chant in nanoscopic moments that at least you can get a refreshing grace amidst so much cursing and buffoonish performances. In short, it’s a generic film with derisory direction by Adam McKay, and yet another film that breaks the two-hour barrier without justifying the soporific and wasteful minutes of this exercise in wanting to be…a failed modern portrayal of Dr. Strangelove? Writing the title of a Kubrick film along with McKay’s name in the same sentence makes me feel angry and completely uncomfortable.

The movie is about Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), an astronomy graduate student, and her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) make a discovery as astonishing as it is terrifying: a huge comet is on a direct collision course with Earth. The other problem is… no one cares. Kate and Randall embark on a media tour warning humanity that takes them from the indifferent President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son and chief of staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), to the broadcast of ‘The Daily Rip’, a lively morning show hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). There are only six months until the comet’s impact, but managing the news flow and gaining the attention of a social media-obsessed public before it’s too late is surprisingly comical. But what’s it going to take to get the world to look up?

There are miniature details that could have made this insufferable comedy something more interesting to watch, be that as it may, this whole production is surrounded by an enormous unscrupulousness that undoubtedly kills any productive element this insipid film may have. But to start off on a more positive note, I would like to make certain points before going through every embarrassingly visible flaw. Don’t Look Up is entirely a product of the 21st century, precisely such 2020’s material that I believe has some very human interest in wanting to diversify its message for honorable purposes. The plot, as basic as it is, makes you think curious thoughts about the modernity of our times and the inevitable effect that the advancement of our species is having on the planet, negative or not, the film has a direct narrative formula to tell us that we are really going to hell if we continue to neglect planet earth. I find that more than acceptable, but I don’t think it’s unreservedly filmable in its totality.

The script is written with tremendous aggression, it’s belligerent and very explicit in its satirical comedy, certainly being unabashedly open with purpose ends up being a film replete with predictability but mostly obtuse, imposingly dull contrivances. Subtlety is one of the best ingredients for making comedy, the art of suggesting and leaving more to the imagination is something that the masters of comedy filmmaking have understood over time. Don’t Look Up hasn’t understood any of that, it didn’t even have the decency to want to be more carefully incisive with its themes; the only thing it leaves us with is a bitter taste with the atrocious comedy, however what angers me the most is its lack of tact in dealing with the themes it manifests.

Is it 2020? 2021? I don’t know where the hell we are, but what we are sure is that we are in the full ”splendor” of modern technology, evidently the burlesque idiom of our times enters relentlessly in every frame of this movie. And worst of all, this production really believes it is orchestrating a perspicacious and shrewd film; parodies have been ubiquitous in cinema since the dawn of cinema, it’s nothing new, some intoxicating masterpieces and others basic films, in my opinion this one deserves a place on the list of ”the most absurd parodies ever made”. Some will say that what I have just written is contradictory, as parodies are supposed to be absurd and go against logic, that statement is totally valid, nevertheless here an exception occurs, this film stubbornly believes in all its pessimistic vision about us and how we would react to a catastrophe of biblical proportions. With that in mind, nothing has the slightest sense of mockery anymore, the parodic comedy is rendered obsolete and ruined by being a cheap modern message, which we all already know. When Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove was released in 1964, it came at one of the most tense moments in post-war history and of course the collisions of powerful nations along with nuclear threats gave Kubrick’s satire a sharp black humor, which was caustic but never directly moralistic, for it is assumed that when a script is written with witty skill the messages should appear by themselves, since the secret is that the audience is capable enough to understand the allusions.

Don’t Look Up doesn’t believe in a smart thinking audience, it believes in an audience without brain cells, and I find that utterly nauseating. The film has an ensemble cast of extremely well known actors in the Hollywood film milieu, actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep are just a few of the vast amount of famous faces. Many incompetent actors as well as other prolific talented names, yet many are wasted by the manic acting form that makes up this film. The characters’ behaviors are lunatic, and paranoid, some behaviors are justifiable but the perennial character structure and plot development is brutally bad, boisterous and agitated. Adam McKay’s direction once again proves to be intuitive but he doesn’t know how to materialize his narrative desires, he is continually busy trying to imitate and ends up forgetting how filmmaking works. This film adds to his jittery filmography, leaving me convinced that he still has a long way to go to articulate what he wants to say on the big screen.




Matteo Bedon

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When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them. Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.

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