Adam McKay is a bit of an anomaly really, isn’t he? On the one hand, he directed out-and-out comedies such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Step Brothers, and on the other, he went down a slightly more satirical, political comedy route, with movies such as The Big Short and Vice. If you look closely, there’s a clear and obvious link between all of the above: comedy. However, nowadays he seems to have swerved sharply left, straight into the black comedy genre. His films are no longer ‘funny ha ha’, but more funny in an awkwardly true-to-life kind of way. Don’t Look Up carries on that black comedy streak that McKay seems to be on.
Don’t Look Up details a pair of scientists (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) who unexpectedly discover that an apocalypse-inducing meteor will shortly crash land into Earth and take out everyone on it. We’ve all seen disaster movies before, but this one is something altogether different. In actual fact, it quickly becomes less about the meteor and more about the metaphor, creating a clear parallel between the ignorance of the characters in the movie and the attitudes of people in real life.
Well… How to describe this movie? An incredibly frustrating watch, I’d say. Mainly because this is exactly what would happen in real life. Ignoring the science? Sound familiar?
In the biggest plot twist, Jonah Hill somehow gives the best performance out of everybody. And no, unlike McKay, I’m not being satirical. Sure, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep are characteristically fabulous, but it’s Hill who understood the assignment above all – every time I laughed, it was because of something he said… and I never thought I’d say that. Imagine my surprise then when Mark Rylance was fucking terrible! In this case, I’m not even just referring to Rylance’s insufferable character, but also to his acting in general. Though his performance is convincing, he’s so stuck in some sort of weird stereotype he holds of technology moguls that he just became irritating. It certainly left a bad taste in my mouth, which is such a shame because he’s usually excellent.
Many people seem to have a problem with the satire being so “on the nose” and I do agree to an extent. If the writing was more subtle then it would have definitely been a more impactful movie as a whole. Sadly, the whole thing suffers because of the writers not knowing how to edit their own work and shut the fuck up. It’s too long, several scenes are completely unnecessary, and it all made me think about the whole ‘Basket of Deplorables‘ comment that Hillary Clinton made during her election campaign. Like Clinton’s questionable comment, Don’t Look Up basically labels an entire section of society as ‘stupid’, and we all know how well that narrative worked out in 2016…
But anyway, back to the subject of editing. I get that the frantic choppiness is supposed to reflect the themes of chaos and fear running through the movie, but it’s just too much. It actually made my brain hurt. Why do several scenes suddenly just cut to the next one mid-sentence? Unsurprisingly, McKay used Hank Corwin once again as his editor, so maybe he was just trying to maintain some sort of flow and synergy between McKay’s movies; The Big Short, for example, uses similar techniques, but they fit much more organically there. I’m sure there’s some good explanation for it, but more than anything, it’s just a nausea-inducing mess.
On a more positive note, for such a long film I have to admit that it was mostly entertaining. I was rarely bored, especially for the first half, even if one or two sections of dialogue were far too lengthy. Yes, there were things I really despised about it, but I had a good time watching it for the most part…
I guess I liked this one a little bit more than most, but not enough to rate it as anything more than average.
Don’t Look Up is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
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