Don’t Look Up
Directed by Adam McKay
(2021, Bluegrass Films/Hyperobject Industries)
In Adam McKay’s movie, Don’t Look Up, two scientists played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, are tasked with the mission of alerting all citizens of Earth of devastating findings that a comet is on a collision course with the planet in what is called a “planet killer.”
Among these citizens of Earth are the President of the Unites States, played by Meryl Streep, her son who serves as her Chief of Staff, played by Jonah Hill, and the rest of her cabinet.
Unfortunately, due to the ever-growing, non-science believers in the country led by the President, who is more focused on her image than that of an oncoming doomsday, the scientists face an uphill battle finding themselves in the surreal moment of actually having to convince people of these facts.
Further, when they first announce their findings to the world on a bubbly morning talk show, and after one of them has to literally scream “there is a 100% chance that we are all going to die!” one of the hosts, played by Cate Blanchett, says cheerfully, we like to “keep things light, fun.”
If this wasn’t a dark comedy, this would be a very dark horror movie. While the movie is quite entertaining and is written for laughs, in 2021, those laughs are more the result of nervousness than actual humor.
It is not too far-fetched to believe that this comedy of errors could easily take place. In fact, the tagline for Don’t Look Up is “based on real events…that haven’t happened.” In the movie there is a sect of the American population that are with the “Don’t Look Up” constituency led by the President, meaning that there is no reason to trust in the science as “we got this, we will protect you” which is based on a plan of greed and chance. The other portion of the citizenry are of the “Just Look Up” group, the ones that are on the side of science believing all you have to do is look up and you will see what’s coming.
The mere fact that there are opposing groups in the face of facts is all too familiar in this day and age. It is eerily close to those folks in America that do not believe there is a virus, and that the vaccine is a government conspiracy while others are screaming from the rooftops to get vaccinated to save your life.
Therein is the horror of Don’t Look Up. Our politics, our lack of many in leadership, many in our leadership’s distrust in facts and science, could all lead to potentially avoidable catastrophic events. Instead of focusing on cures and solutions, we may waste crucial time fighting if it even exists at all (see: climate change.)
As a movie, Don’t Look Up is a very solid piece of storytelling albeit a bit slow and dragging in the middle, however, the story it is telling makes the movie a very important one and one that needs to be paid attention to.
There are many serious films that try and convey a message to viewers only to fall flat. Not due to the film but due to the recipients of the message. I have heard many times from people, “I don’t go to the movies to be educated, I go for escape.”
Hopefully, with the comedic approach to the message Don’t Look Up is trying to impart, people will laugh at ourselves, at our current political climate, at our failings, and after the laughter fades, the message will be received.