“Don’t Look Up” Lacks Eye Contact with the Problem
I have spent a decade writing myself into knots on various projects because my underlying intent was to change the world. This, of course, was some white savior bullshit, but also an effective way to paralyze myself at the task at hand. How can anyone possibly face that daunting task? Every word becomes imbued with an all-importance that it doesn’t have.
It feels like as an artist, if I’m not transparently trying to make the world a better place, I’m just a selfish asshole too proud to become a fireman or something useful. So I make the mistake of writing directly toward a goal or issue, rather than writing what I feel.
This is a long-winded way of saying I totally understand and empathize with Adam McKay’s intentions with “Don’t Look Up.” I don’t disagree with what the movie is trying to say, but I don’t love how it goes about saying it.
Adam McKay is undeniably smart and talented, but this film reads as smug, didactic and just too close to reality. This movie is a movie for Democrats to feel like we’re in on the joke, to feel like we’re Right and they’re Wrong and Stupid. That moral high ground only exacerbates the Us vs. Them dichotomy that oversimplifies the problem and magnifies our differences.
There is SO MUCH (wasted) talent on display here it’s overwhelming and it’s obviously calculated: the more famous people we can throw in the mix, the more likely people won’t scroll by it on Netflix. I get that impulse, but for me, the star power backfires, because it IS calculated.
They went for star power rather than who was right for the role. They went for noise rather than emotion and feeling. Leo is particularly miscast as The Everyman turned Hot Scientist. He’s not attractive or appealing here, but he’s also still Leo, about as far from The Everyman as you can get. Leo, like all of us, becomes too preoccupied with Cate Blanchett to stay focused on helping the world. There’s something there, but he doesn’t face any true consequences for his hubris.
Don’t Look Up is at its best when it’s most absurd, when it’s not a 1:1 comparison to what’s outside our window. Because there are real and surprising laughs all over the place, especially whenever Mark Rylance’s Sir Peter Isherwell gets going about Bronterocs or Timothée Chalamet reveals his Twitch handle or Jennifer Lawrence wonders why a general would charge them for free snacks.
That laughter is telling — that is when I feel togetherness, when I feel hope, when I feel like we’re in this together, not tossing easily made judgment grenades across the aisle. It’s not about looking up or down, it’s about looking into each other’s eyes and finding ways to laugh together.