- Don’t Look Up is Adam McKay’s political disaster satire. This is his Roland Emmerich movie or maybe better yet his Dr. Strangelove.
- Mars Attacks! (1996) from Tim Burton is a fitting companion as well. Burton’s film is an homage to 1950s science fiction films, is a sort of disaster film, and had a fantastic ensemble cast like McKay’s work.
- McKay is indeed an auteur. His films always open with a wild quote. This one is from Jack Handey-
“I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like his passengers”- hilarious.
- McKay’s films largely consist of comic ironies with very capable acting casts (and this is no exception). His films incorporate celebrity cameos (even beyond the ridiculous cast her there are cameos from Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi). Other McKayisms include his editing prowess. McKay is a montagist. Don’t Look Up has at least a half dozen cutaway sequences. McKay has much in common with Oliver Stone beyond just the politics and lack of subtlety (which is a choice, not a critique). Stone was a stylistic- a montagist as well- firing images (though McKay’s are not as searing) of anger at hypocrisy, greed and other targets.
- Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are at the center of the story as Dr. Mindy and Kate Dibiasky- two astronomers at Michigan State University. Their astronomical discovery sets in motion their meeting with the President (Meryl Streep) and her son (Jonah Hill) who has his job as chief of staff because of nepotism.
- McKay is a playful stylist- freezing on Lawrence’ Dibiasky throwing up at the 11-minute mark before the delayed opening titles.
- It is hard to say how much is screenwriting and how much is improvisation- but Don’t Look Up makes me want a movie starring Jonah Hill and Jennifer Lawrence at its center. Their combative scenes together are so funny- “boy with the dragon tattoo” and “thanks for dressing up”- a great rapport between the two actors. Hill’s “buck forty trilly” gives him at least three of the best lines in the film in his few minutes on screen.
- Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman and Mark Rylance are in the cast as well. Rylance plays his Peter Isherwell sort of like Johnny Depp played his version of Willy Wonka. Perlman is miscast as Benedict Drask- a sort of redneck American hero. Obviously, he would have turned it down, but someone in a sort of stunt casting capacity like Toby Keith or something would be perfect- if McKay chose not to go that route- then a Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone would be stronger than Perlman.
- Timothée Chalamet plays Yule- a smaller role for Chalamet and a distant third bronze medal in his incredible year in 2021 which includes Dune and The French Dispatch.
- DiCaprio gets two showcase scenes. First, he has a panic attack in the bathroom that is very reminiscent of his “whiskey sour” freak out in Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. Secondly, he gets an on air Peter Finch in Network “I’m mad as hell..” moment. It is an intriguing role for Leo playing against type as an everyman.
- There are few actors that can spit truth and be gritty as well as Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook).
- It is a scathing critique of executive power , the media (and social media), and celebrity- not to mention every facet of life being politicized.
- The intelligence level is a notch or two below McKay’s breakthrough film The Big Short (2015) and he is not as experimental with form as he was in 2018’s Vice.
- There is a wonderful recurring joke of General Themes charging Leo and Lawrence’s characters money for water in the White House.
- The film has undeniable flaws- it does not quite warrant the 138-minute running time nor the weight of the talented cast. A film with Leo, Blanchett, Streep, Lawrence, Chalamet and Hill simply needs to be better. McKay also steps out of his way with the trendy choices for his finger-pointing to make this a movie about our times and it remains to be seen how that will age.
- Closes with a beautiful Bon Iver song
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 2021
I hate to be too harsh but I found this difficult to get through and pretty embarrassing for everyone involved. Sort of a blemish on DiCaprio’s otherwise very consistent career imo.
@Ce- I was surprised to see the four Oscar nominations today (best picture, editing, score, writing) but “embarrassing for everyone involved”, indeed, seems too harsh as you say.
Out of those I only really believe the editing nomination is somewhat deserved. But knowing how much the Oscars have been trying to appeal to broader audiences, and how much of a hot topic it has been, I’m not overly surprised that they nominated this. I don’t want to go on too much about the Oscars because it’s easy to target them for their flaws, but to see The French Dispatch not get a single nomination was bizarre, even just in the technical categories. Meanwhile a movie like CODA got nominated for Best Picture – by far the blandest and least artistically interesting of the bunch.
I was pretty disappointed to see how few nominations The Tragedy of Macbeth received myself. It’s refreshing however to see another foreign film like Drive My Car get recognition; I hope this pattern continues.
@DeclanG- agree with CODA- I’ve 9 of the 10 best picture noms and this and King Richard have little to offer artistically (at least after one viewing)
@Drake – In a month (March 19) Drive My Car is showing in my city so I’m pretty excited.
@Zane- very exciting Zane! Keep us posted
@Drake – …And now it’s premiering on HBO Max on March 2nd apparently.
Still, I’ve only rarely seen arthouse movies in theaters (to be honest the only thing that really comes to mind for me is Uncut Gems actually and I can’t think of any else off the top of my head), so I still might just go see it there anyway.
All too true tho
@Harry- thank you for the cleanup help
@Malith- thank you for the help categorizing this one correctly