Netflix's "Don't Look Up" somehow manages to loosely address multiple issues facing society: climate change, cancel culture, media, divisive political opinions, ignorance and corrupt public officials, to name a few.
Directed and co-written by Adam McKay, this satirical comedy has an engaging story to tell. But with whiplash editing, a jam-packed cast and a plot that loses momentum in the middle, the film isn't a complete winner.
DON'T LOOK UP | Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence | Official Trailer | Netflix www.youtube.com
Oh no, a comet!
The movie starts when Ph.D. student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a comet and shares her discovery with Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), who calculates that the ginormous comet is headed for Earth in six months. Dr. Clayton 'Teddy' Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) a government official who specializes in spacial affairs supports the astronomers' discovery by realizing the comet so big that it will create a planet-killer event. And so the trio go on a media tour warning the world of everyone's impending doom, but no one is listening.
Talk show hosts Jack (Tyler Perry) and Brie (Cate Blanchett) don't seem to care and keep the mood light on TV, making Mindy the hottest doctor on social media and Kate the tragic victim to cancel culture memes. President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her chief of staff/son (Jonah Hill) only care when it's convenient for their political gain. And no matter how hard Kate and Mindy try to warn people, the public only seems to care about a recent break-up between pop sensation Riley (Ariana Grande) and DJ Chello (Kid Cudi).
The only one who seems to take this seriously is an outcast named Yule (Timothee Chalamet) and an awkward rich app developer named Peter (Mark Rylance), who pitches drill robots that might help fight the comet and simultaneously boost the economy and his brand.
Messages are clear but lost in the run time
The beginning is engaging and moves at a fast pace from one location to the next as the main trio work hard to warn the public. In a sense, the audience becomes invested, too.
But when the government is more involved in the plot, that's when things get slow, turning the tongue-in-cheek comedy into an extended snooze fest. There are too many meetings, too many talking heads and too many lost causes. It's enough to make the viewers lose hope like its protagonists. But boy, the last act of the movie finishes strong. After a two-hour and twenty-five minute run time, the middle leaves more to be desired.
Plus, there is a gaping plot hole that has to do with Peter's mobile app. His app reportedly predicts when someone will die. To give context, one of the best moments in the films is when the brilliant political campaign "don't look up," from comet non-believers, versus "look up," from those who believe in their doom, is born. Couldn't the whole controversy been stopped if someone checked Peter's hottest app on the market?
McKay's style is messy
Coming from a fan of McKay's previous work like "Anchorman" and "Vice," the editing choices in this latest movie felt particularly annoying. There are multiple times throughout the movie in which stock footage of nature flashes by in half-second periods or random videos of people fly by. The media comes and goes so quickly that it doesn't give people a moment to process. It's a distracting style choice that feels weird and unproductive for the rest of his storytelling.
Thank goodness for the actors
Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio and Rob Morgan are standouts in this film. They consistently have some of the best scenes with the biggest range throughout the film. They make "Don't Look Up" fun despite its flaws.
Watch "Don't Look Up" in theaters starting Friday, December 10, or watch it on Netflix starting Friday, December 24. Follow the reporter Samantha Incorvaia on Twitter at @s_incorvaia and on her podcast Plot Devices.