Don’t Look Up surprised me. Normally, after I survey people during a film’s general release…I get a varied level of responses. What happened was the responses split into two camps. Camp A is totally on board with what the film’s doing. Camp B thought Don’t Look Up was one of the most smug films made in a five year stretch of cloistered individuals learning to love the smell of their own farts.
Director Adam McKay has publicly gone on record saying that he ruined his relationship with Will Ferrell. He stopped short of saying what the rest of America was thinking in that he’s only made 1 good movie outside of that partnership. The Big Short deserved the Awards attention it received and I love every inch of that movie. But, I could see the cracks forming in the creative mindtrust that was already at play there.
Then, came Vice. Beating up on Dick Cheney with the cleverness of a 12 year old who just discovered Mother Jones is trite on film. People will bitch and moan about the script having a ton to say. Well, this is 2021 and actual literacy alongside media literacy is in the toilet. If you’re making a movie, put something on the screen to convey a message that can reach people.
I admire Netflix for their efforts to bring a wide variety of films into an every shrinking cinema space. After all, there are only so many movies that hedge funds and Chinese investors are willing to bankroll. So, new benefactors producing movies for adult audiences are a good thing. That also means you’re going to get some duds in the bunch. But, why is Don’t Look Up such a dud?
It’s hard to care about the End Times when everything is on fire. At least, that’s what the blue haired lady screamed at me.
Don’t Look Up is almost designed to fail. Much like with the mistakes made in Vice, but amplified more here…McKay is arguing a point he feels that you already accept. That being humanity is naturally doomed to fail when facing challenge. By doing so, you create the basic bitch cardinal sin of modern filmmaking…you’re making a morality play. Will people rise above their station and do the right thing?
Some will argue that all entertainment is nothing but morality plays since the Dawn of Time. I disagree. A lot of entertainment can be written off as morality plays, but there’s also shit like Fast and Furious movies. That has to mean something.
My point being is that Tokyo Drift is proof that humanity can come together to stave off anything including a killer comet. But, I do agree that celebrity worship (including politicians and business leaders) will only complicate matters. But, that doesn’t matter as that isn’t what Don’t Look Up is about and that should be apparent.
Everybody’s stupid but me.
SPOILER ALERT: The finale and the stupid little prayer at the end of Don’t Look Up is the endgame of all Neoliberal power fantasy nonsense that seems to originate in tiny coastal pockets then get parroted across social media. No one is as smart or cares as much about you? That’s good and fine. But, what are you going to do when the Comet/Tidal Wave/Dystopian Future/Fill in the Blank dumpster fire is about to annihilate you?
Being smug will only get you so far, but it’s not going to save your life or anybody else? So, in a connected age where everyone has access to almost the same volume of information as others…where is the benefit of lording over others? Even in the mold of a master writer like Chayefsky, his scripts were designed to call attention to social ills that invited people to work on improving them.
Network didn’t end with Howard Beale blowing up or shooting Robert DeNiro in the head on Live TV. It developed an arc and gave people a way to study a problem, understand a problem and see how to fix it. Don’t Look Up is built for defeat and defeat is what it gained.
What to do if you enjoyed Don’t Look Up
Don’t Look Up has its fair share of defenders. But, the most they can muster is the film isn’t as bad as others say. These are also the same kind of viewers that look for background noise and struggle to remember things they watched three hours later. That being said, both sides have that issue, so I’ll make this easier on you.
Nobody should let Ariana Grande sing for three minutes straight in a film. I don’t care if it’s Sing and she’s playing a Polar Bear taking a frozen shit on stage. When you stop a film for something like that, it becomes the equivalent of the Burt Bacharach scene in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The difference is one is a joke and the other becomes a joke.
The rest of the film is split between giving the satire points their own segments to mug, while we don’t have to keep looking at DiCaprio and Lawrence being frustrated. The best parts of the movie are Jonah Hill and Mark Rylance who lean into their roles and try to develop them as something other than filler. The less said about Meryl Streep as female Trump the better. I can already feel a few of you screaming her name at me.
But, giving that character a name has much weight as Alec Baldwin checking a handgun for you. So, is it cool if people like Don’t Look Up? Sure. But, these are the same people who see everything else at face value. It’s just in the case, it requires accepting a degree of dourness and defeat. If that sounds like your bag, then get at it and work your own review on TikTok.
Lord knows that’s where I go to hear about everything from Licorice Pizza to Licorice Pizza.