Don’t Look Up ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth. On Netflix from 10 December.
An astronomy student (Jennifer Lawrence) and her professor (Leonardo di Caprio) discover a comet on a collision course to Earth which will destroy all life on the planet.
If this sounds familiar and reminds of the plots from one of those catastrophic films from the 90s, like Deep Impact or Armageddon, you’d be surprised to discover that Don’t look up! is actually a comedy… Or at least it tries to be.
In fact once the film gets going it does eventually turn into an absurd journey along which Lawrence and DiCaprio try to get the world to believe their story. They go to the authorities, to the media and even get to meet the US president herself (played by Meryl Streep). Alas, nobody takes them seriously.
It is of course a not-too-veiled metaphor for the constant alarm calls about the impending danger of climate change. It’s not surprising that we find DiCaprio involved here, both in front the camera, but also behind the scenes as one of producers as well.
But the film clearly wants to make fun of (or rather shame) the people at the top, those with power, the media, the big corporations and those catastrophe-deniers, all of whom are just as dangerous as the killer comet.
This is potentially a very clever concept, a great a satire in fact, with writer and director Adam McKay at the helm (Oscar nominated for his recent films, The Big Short and Vice).
If you then add to that one of the greatest casts assembled in recent years – Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet and even Ariana Grande – you would think there’s enough here to make it a masterpiece.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I have to be honest, I came into this not knowing anything about it, other than its stellar cast, but it was only about 15 minutes into the film that I realised I was meant to be laughing. In fact, the first attempt at real (whacky) comedy in the film, which came in the form of a caption on the screen, took me so much by surprise that I thought it was just a badly designed title.
The film does indeed have some inspired moments and I have to confess I did laugh a lot too, but they are just too spread out in among puerile humour, pointless subplots and huge indulgences. Somewhere in the third act the film grinds to a halt as we are treated to a full song which plays during a concert. There is absolutely NO reason for this scene to be there, aside from the fact that Ariana Grande’s fans will be happy.
Even Meryl Streep, though I’m sure she’s having the time of her life playing essentially female version of Trump, feels very much one-note and her over-the-topness (is there such a word? Well, there is now) becomes a bit repetitious and slightly grating after a while. Same goes for a lot of the secondary characters in the film, though I have to say, both DiCaprio and Lawrence are excellent.
The secret of great comedy is in its timing and here I’m afraid there is just too much padding, which works against the laughs and crucially dilutes the sobering message it’s trying to convey. In the end it all comes across as a bit too silly and rather smug.
What’s missing in Don’t Look Up is the unity of tone, the sharp witty commentary and the anger at being screwed by the ultra-rich that had fuelled McKay’s previous film, The Big Short, and made it so compelling.
Here the only thing infuriating is the waste of huge talent on the screen (Timothée Chalamet is criminally underused) and the fact that hidden somewhere there was actually a great film to be made.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
Don’t Look Up is available to watch on Netflix from 10 December.
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