Monday, December 27, 2021

Don't Look Up


Astronomy PhD candidate Kate Dibiaski (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a 7-10 km wide comet hurtling straight towards Earth. Her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) calculates the space rock’s route and trajectory and is 99% sure that it will result in a direct hit in a mere six months. Terrified, they ring the alarm and get an appointment at the White House with the help of Dr. Teddy Oglethrope (Rob Morgan), the head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office. When President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son Chief of Staff Jason (Jonah Hill) prove to be more concerned about her midterm popularity rating than the extinction level threat, the two Michigan State University alums embark on a media tour to tell the world about what they have discovered. What follows is a not so enjoyable game marred with politics, media sensationalism, and some personal tribulations here and there. Will their efforts be enough to save the human race?

The film has a lot to say about the current state of society, media, and politics that have taken centerstage in almost everyone’s day-to-day experience. As a social commentary, the material is spot-on and does not pull its punches. All the characters seem to be alluding to certain personalities one can identify in real life. While the references are not obvious, one can easily think of several people in the real world being lampooned here.

Perhaps the problem of Don’t Look Up is its overdose on irreverence. Somehow, it just ends up feeling like one of those ridiculous comedies James Franco and friends used to make back in the day, but with an ensemble of Oscar winners this time around. With Jonah Hill as part of the cast, the eerie similarity becomes all the more evident. The weird thing is because you have Streep and company instead, you somehow end up getting confused if you should take this film seriously or with a grain of salt.

While DiCaprio and Lawrence do commit to their respective roles and have their own brilliant moments, it is arguably Cate Blanchett as flirty host of the TV show The Daily Rip Brie Evantee who seems to be having the most fun with her character. Or maybe it is just because I am a fan and I can’t easily come up with a concrete real life TV host who she appears to be parodying here, although there are several that come to mind.

The film concludes in a rather tragic note which, once again, confuses you as to how you should react. On one hand, you try to welcome it with open arms because the material is obviously satire. On the other hand, it also hits hard as a social critique because what is happening onscreen, we also see occurring in real life. In the end you can actually pinpoint some people you know who can easily fit the mold of the different caricatures in this movie. In the film they are supposed to be funny, but in real life they are just downright annoying, and you really don’t want anything to do with them.

Overall, Don’t Look Up is as timely as it could ever be and captures the zeitgeist of today’s divided world. While it seems ridiculous on the get go, given the current pandemic situation and how the human race has reacted so far, it is not that farfetched to believe that if a comet is indeed going to hit our planet in a few months, we are all definitely going to die and probably just digest the gravity of the entire situation minutes before impact. For that, this film even feels prophetic to some extent.

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