Where to Watch: Netflix, Select Theaters
Release Date: December 2021
Genre: Drama / Comedy
Director: Adam McKay
My Rating: 4/5
Letterboxd Rating: 3.2/5
Letterboxd Summary: Two low-level astronomers, upon discovering that a meteor will strike the Earth in six months, go on a media tour to try to warn the world but find an unreceptive and unbelieving populace.
This review contains light spoilers for Don’t Look Up
I decided to watch this movie because it has an absolutely all star cast. If you ask anyone in your family to name 5 actors, odds are that they will name at least one person in this film. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, it also features Meryl Streep (President Orlean), Jonah Hill (Jason Orlean), Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Chris Evans, Cate Blanchett, Himesh Patel, Kid Cuti, and more. It is truly an insane group of people who all agreed to be in this movie, and the reason becomes painfully obvious pretty much right away. Don’t Look Up is a painfully obvious political commentary that still manages to be darkly humorous and worth the watch.
The film opens with PhD student Kate Dibiasky (played by Lawrence) discovering a strange comet in orbit. She gets the attention of her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and he begins to plot the orbits to determine where it will crash. The math is undeniable: the comet will hit earth in a little over 6 months. The comet is 9 kilometers wide, so if it hits Earth, it is an extinction level event. All of humanity will be wiped out. Kate and Dr. Mindy instantly spiral. Kate needs to go get high, and Dr. Mindy can’t comprehend that this is happening at all. At this point in the movie, I was worried about how it was going to be, but stay with it because it gets better.
The duo speak to the head of NASA, who blows them off, and Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), head of the Space Safety Organization- or something like that, I don’t really remember. Dr. Oglethorpe proves to be their only ally as the movie continues. The President (Streep) doesn’t care, because announcing the comet will cause her to lose the midterms coming up in three weeks. When she finally does decide to help, she ends up bailing at the last minute because she finds out that the comet contains trillions of dollars of minerals. In case you aren’t getting it yet- this movie is a commentary on how nobody is doing anything about global warming because it will hurt them in the polls and not doing anything will make them richer. Yes, this is a movie about a group of rich people discussing how rich people are killing the world. You kind of have to ignore the irony, or embrace it. Whatever will make the movie more enjoyable for you.
Don’t worry though, we don’t leave it at just that commentary. The trio embark on a media tour in order to warn people about the comet, and so we also get a fun “white man in the world vs young white woman in the world vs black man in the world”. Kate Dibiasky found the comet, and is much better at explaining herself. Unfortunately, nobody wants to hear the truth, and she eventually breaks and starts screaming. She becomes labeled as mentally unstable, and people begin to wonder if they should even trust anyone who has the same name as the comet. For context, the comet is named after her because SHE DISCOVERED IT. Dr. Oglethorpe, a highly educated black man, is largely ignored. Nobody dislikes him or his media presence as they do Kate’s, but they also aren’t asking him to be on the news. He is entirely relegated to the sidelines despite being equally involved as Kate and Dr. Mindy for the entirety of the movie. Dr. Mindy, on the other hand, benefits immensely. He is an averagely attractive middle aged man (he’s literally played by Dicaprio) who actually has depression and panic attacks, but rather than getting labeled as mentally unstable as Kate does, he rises to fame. The news anchor (Cate Blanchett) falls for him, the world falls for him, and he gets constant speaking gigs, a spot on a kid’s television show, and a promotion to government job. Keep in mind that it was Kate’s science that found the comet, and Dr. Oglethorpe’s science meets media knowledge that allowed them to share their findings with the world. Dr. Mindy just takes the credit.
The movie climaxes with an epic battle between the two sides: “Just Look Up”, lead by scientists and the people who believe, and “Don’t Look Up”, lead by President Orlean and billionaire Peter Isherwell (played by Mark Rylance). Isherwell was the second iteration of Steve Jobs. He became the third richest man in the world by inventing cutting edge phone technology, and was the biggest donor to the Orlean campaign, hence his involvement. The Don’t Look Up crowd was attending giant rallies where they cheered on their leader, and the Just Look Up crowd was organizing and attempting to gain the awareness of other countries.
Basically, that’s the movie. It’s pretty dark and calls out a lot of tropes that we see in real life all the time, so you have to be in the mood for that type of film. It’s also LONG. I didn’t expect it to be nearly that long when I saw the concept and all of the great people that were in it. I know it’s taking a ton of criticism right now for being too heavy handed, but I honestly think that was kind of the point. They could afford to make this super heavy handed because it has such a great cast that people will watch it anyways. Also, for all of you complaining that it’s heavy handed, let’s just look at what happened to Squid Games when there was an ~ounce~ of subtlety. The rich people did not get the message.
Dicaprio, as per usual, did a fantastic job acting in this, and so did Streep. They made you believe the characters and were still able to drop in comedic lines. I think this movie is a must watch, if only so that you can engage in all of the commentary currently happening on Twitter. If you watch it, let me know what you think!! I’d love to hear your opinions and hot takes.