Netflix’s Don’t Look Up is one of the most talked about films of recent months thanks to the cast which is packed with A-listers. Adam McKay’s dark comedy follows a research team followed by Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) who discover that a huge comet is heading straight for Earth and will destroy it within a matter of months. Mindy and researcher, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) head to the White House to convince the President (Meryl Streep) to destroy the comet before it hits the planet. With plenty of storylines and characters, Don’t Look Up is a film that has garnered polarising reviews with some loving the message on climate change while others feel that the execution falls short.
The film is directed and written by Adam McKay, whose previous efforts include 2018’s Vice and 2015’s The Big Short which combine politics and comedy. McKay is interested in recent political events and Don’t Look Up is his take on climate change. What made The Big Short and Vice so effective is that they had a tighter focus on a few characters so the films had a better flow in terms of the writing and direction. Don’t Look Up is a film that is filled with the world’s biggest stars and McKay clearly wants to give everyone a fair share of screentime. Unfortunately, the result of which seems to be a who’s who of Hollywood and the writing is crammed with too many storylines that it seems jilted in structure. It feels like the screenplay needed to go through an extra draft to finesse the story and ensure that the film has a better flow.
Jennifer Lawrence plays researcher, Kate Dibiasky, who is credited with discovering the comet, which is suitably named Dibiasky Comet. Dibiasky appears to be the voice of reason throughout the film although doesn’t have the skills to communicate her view properly which angers the authorities. Lawrence’s performance is perfect as she captures Kate’s feelings of despair and her outspoken nature. It’s great seeing Lawrence and DiCaprio act opposite one another and it feels like Lawrence actually steals the show thanks to the amount of depth that she brings to the performance. Don’t Look Up allows us to see Lawrence in a different kind of comical role that we haven’t seen from her before and she delivers.
In the male leading role is Leonardo DiCaprio who portrays research leader, Dr. Randall Mindy. As always, DiCaprio can be relied upon to give a great performance which he does but it does feel as though his character isn’t given much to play with in the same way that Dibiasky is. There are certain decisions that McKay made for the character which seem a bit confusing such as having Randall embark on an affair with news reporter, Brie (Cate Blanchett) which doesn’t add a lot to the overall plot while taking up a lot of time. What is confusing about this development is that it contrasts to everything else we learn about Randall and the way he lives his life. His affair seems to show that he is just as bad and sleazy as the authorities who want to mine the comet for minerals. Despite this, DiCaprio does a great job with what he’s given.
The supporting cast is absolutely huge and is led by none other than Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill as President Janie Orlean and her son, Jason Orlean, who is also Chief of Staff, respectively. Having Streep playing a President was bound to happen sooner or later, but rather than be a reliable source of wisdom and leadership, Janie Orlean is manipulative and power and money-hungry, seeing the comet as a money-making opportunity rather than a threat. Jason also proves himself to be extremely under-qualified for his role and has clearly gotten to where he is thanks to nepotism. The role of Janie Orlean feels a bit underwhelming in terms of development, which is a shame when you have Meryl Streep in the role while Jonah Hill is clearly given the chance to improvise and do what his does best – insult people within an inch of their lives in a hilarious way.
Don’t Look Up is a film that wears its message on its sleeve, but the execution falls a bit short due to the screenplay, which tends to flit around a lot. McKay has proven that he can work with an ensemble task and has even won an Oscar for his screenplay for The Big Short, but the magic he creates blending comedy and politics seems a bit lost amongst all the characters. It feels as though some storylines don’t blend well with each other, which may be the reason it has had such polarising opinions. This isn’t to say that Don’t Look Up is a film without its positives, however, as Jennifer Lawrence provides an excellent performance and Jonah Hill is a comedic standout in a role that feels like a classic Hill performance but it’s a film that should have been more consistent in it’s storytelling.
What did you think of Don’t Look Up? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Don’t Look Up is available to watch on Netflix now!