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‘Don’t Look Up’ offers all the glitz and celebrity it hates

It feels like it’s been years since Jennifer Lawrence starred in a movie. Following the success of the Hunger Games trilogy and a couple high-profile bombs (hello, “Passengers” and “Red Sparrow”), she promptly disappeared.

Now, Hollywood’s leading quirky and relatable millennial is back, courtesy of Netflix’s 2021 dark comedy, “Don’t Look Up.”

“Don’t Look Up” stars a red-haired Lawrence alongside, bear with me here, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Himesh Patel, Chris Evans , Rob Morgan, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi and everyone’s favorite Big Friendly Giant Mark Rylance.

The plot of this star-studded affair, you ask?

Astrophysicists Randall (DiCaprio) and Kate (Lawrence) discover an asteroid that will collide with the earth in six months, but no one will heed their warnings. From an unhinged president and her son (serving as chief of staff) worried about approval ratings to news anchors more concerned with celebrity gossip than the end of the world, no one will listen to what the scientists have to say.

I’m not sure a movie aiming to comment on society’s inability to focus on the impending danger of climate change was best served by such a loaded cast.

Is it funny to see DiCaprio and Grande interact? Yes. Does it help convey the message director Adam McKay wanted to get across? Not really, no.

The movie’s timing is equally as unfortunate as its cast. With a sitting president insisting that citizens “don’t look up” and see their impending doom for themselves, a tech mogul using a global disaster to profit, and a shitty pop song urging everyone to follow the advice of experts, the movie could just as easily be an allegory for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Filmmakers have always used their medium as a motor for societal change. There’s a reason the most recent Best Picture winners include “Parasite,” “Moonlight” and “Spotlight” (No, not because they rhyme).

“Don’t Look Up” won’t join those ranks.

Whose mind will be changed by watching DiCaprio yell about impending natural disasters? That’s been going on for years already, and the message isn’t well-received from someone so bent on boarding a yacht as often as possible (he and Dua Lipa are actually on a yacht as I’m writing this).

And Lawrence? This isn’t even her best climate change allegory project. That comes in 2017’s “mother!” with director Darren Aronofsky. I don’t care what the reviews say, watching her go insane as her husband lets more and more guests into their house definitely counts as horror and definitely works for me.

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That’s not to say “Don’t Look Up” doesn’t have its moments. The final scene in particular is poignant as Kate and Randall cope with their inevitable demise.

Streep’s performance as President Orlean soars above the rest of the cast, equal parts infuriating and pitiful as she justifies selling out the entire human race for the potential riches the asteroid could bring.

Sure, Blanchett and Perry’s scenes as news anchors are a heavy-handed attempt to aggravate and obscure the facts of the situation, but it worked. I hated them. Hats off to McKay for intentionally pissing me off.

Good moments can’t save a movie that proclaims itself as a social commentary, though. I’m not breaking any ground that hasn’t already been covered here, but those who recognize climate change as an existential issue already will pat themselves on the back, and those who don’t will dig their heels in at such a bold and patronizing attempt to mock them into agreeing.

Rating: 5/10

scottsr2@miamioh.edu



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