Everything has become politicized. From professional sports to the movies and television shows that we love to watch, there’s no escaping personal agendas anymore. And ever since Anchorman director, Adam McKay, seamlessly transitioned to awards-caliber filmmaking with his universally praised, Oscar winning effort, The Big Short, he’s thrown his hat into the ring of polarization and politicization. If you thought McKay’s follow-up Best Picture nominee, Vice, was a targeted shot at former GOP politician Dick Cheney and conservatism in general, then you haven’t seen anything yet. The director’s latest awards season contender, Don’t Look Up, stands as a pointed missile of anger and vitriol aimed at the Trump-Era Republican party and what McKay views as their attempt to cripple society’s trust in the scientific process.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence star as Dr. Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky, a Michigan State Astronomy professor and his doctorial student who discover a mammoth comet that’s 99.7% likely to strike Earth and eliminate all of humanity in a little over 6 months. However, when they try to alert the President (played by Meryl Streep) and her Chief of Staff son (Jonah Hill), their findings are ignored for political reasons. This alarming response sends Mindy and Dibiasky on a media tour where they’re desperate to get the message out about Earth’s impending doom, even if people are too stupid to believe it.
Make no mistake about it, if McKay is at the helm, a heavy dose of humor is to be expected. Like clockwork, Don’t Look Up relies on a dark comedic tone to tell the film’s bleak and unnerving tale that sadly, but accurately, captures the true essence of society’s divided political landscape. Yet, rather than examine this bitter reality through an objective lens, McKay unapologetically plants his flag on the side of liberalism by showing an utter mockery of former President Donald Trump and his powerful influence over half of America’s population. You don’t have to look any further than the scripted jokes of Jonah Hill’s character talking about the sexiness of his own mother, the President in the film, which is an obvious jab at Trump’s uncomfortable and repeated claims of his daughter Ivanka’s attractiveness. Art imitating life certainly doesn’t end there as McKay delivers a multitude of other real-life similarities throughout this outstretched endeavor.
Don’t Look Up proudly shouts its intentions, which are to stand behind the reliability of math and science and to combat those eager to muddy the waters of truth and reason. With its deliberate use of single-frame imagery involving nature and wildlife peppered into the film, McKay’s latest offering serves as an allegory for climate change and the destruction of our planet at the expense of making the rich even richer. And to its benefit, Don’t Look Up impressively depicts just how easy it is to get swept up in all of this fame and fortune by showing the vulnerability of its lead character, played exceptionally well by Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s during this midsection of the movie where the plot appears to reach a stalemate and the minutes slowly mount, but McKay’s shift to the moral flaws of the film’s main character is purposeful although not particularly entertaining.
Don’t Look Up eventually regains its footing and culminates in a truly impactful fashion thanks to stellar onscreen work from DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast. The film is far from Adam McKay at his best, and it’s the type of movie that’s guaranteed to divide audiences, but Don’t Look Up also provides an important overlying message that will regrettably go unnoticed by those who need to hear it the most.