In what turned out to be one of the more appropriately plotted films of the past decade, Adam McKay's political/social satire film Don't Look Up asks a question that's been asked about a million times:
"Are we gonna do anything about Climate Change?"
Of course this question has yet to be answered anything other than "nah" by various governments, cough U.S. cough, hence the movie and much of the pointed humor and wit within it.
McKay provides us with an allegorical take on climate change with his vehicle of choice being a large comet heading towards Earth. The comet, discovered by an astronomy Ph.D. candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and confirmed by Astronomy Professor Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), will ultimately collide with Earth in approximately 6 months resulting in an extinction-level event. In an attempt to prevent this mass destruction Dibiasky, Mindy, and the head of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (which McKay reminds us is actually a thing), Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), take a trip to the White House to debrief the President (Meryl Streep).
What ensues is about 2.5 hours of satirical chicanery that is as broad as it is long. Now I'm not usually one to complain about runtimes, but Don't Look Up is a type of film that makes you feel every minute of duration.
I mean that in a relatively eh way.
This feels like a movie where McKay just wanted to burn the house down and touch on everything that's pissed him off for the past 5 years or so. He touches on so many topics from mainstream media, political donations, nepotism in politics, sexism, and infatuation with celebrities just to name a few -- unfortunately, a lot of this satirical scrutiny seems to fall a bit flat.
Arguably one of the best examples of this translated on screen is the nepotism shown between President Orlean and her son Jason (Jonah Hill), who is somewhat unsurprisingly her Chief of Staff. Much of what works with this parody is Jonah's penchant for witty humor and improvisational prowess. He has a handful fo comebacks and bites with Dibiasky and overall is a pretty big piece of shit. Hill's delivery and charisma combined with McKay's sense of humor is a combination made in heaven -- they play to each other's strengths and the end product is hilarious.
Unfortunately, plenty of the other topics fall rather flat. A key one being whatever the hell Mark Rylance was doing as Peter Isherwell, a ridiculously wealthy CEO of a tech company called BASH. While I understand what McKay was going for here in portraying the filthy rich as policy pushers (with Isherwell stopping the comet from being destroyed since he's a powerful donor except he's also just completely detached from reality), but the performance is bizarr. Rylance might just be miscast here, because his mannerisms, style, and every piece of dialogue is just completely strange. I'm not sure if McKay was trying to point at Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Tim Cook or what, but Isherwell was almost too much of a caricature to create meaningful introspection.
If I had to pick something that worked quite well, I'd say it was the bleak and depressing ending. At the conclusion of the 6 month time period, the comet is approaching Earth and all attempts to destroy the comet, or mine it, have failed and Earth is facing impending doom. Of course the outrageously rich and powerful have a special spacecraft ready to roll for them to fly off into the cosmos and search for a new planet because that's a much better application of money than saving the current planet. It reminded me of that John Cusack movie 2012 about the end of the world and the rich and powerful had giant fancy ships to avoid the aforementioned end of the world. Except in that movie, the apocalypse just kind of stopped. Don't Look Up shares a disastrous ending with the likes of Knowing a Nicolas Cage alien flick about solar flares, where Earth is blown up in totality.
The ending here stuck with me because just look where we are right now? Richard Branson went to space, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos weren't far behind him either. I'm fairly confident these people just have a slush fund dedicated to surviving an extinction level event that could be prevented. Simmer on that for a second.
Besides that, I found the score and McKay's signature "montage" to detract from the overall feel of the movie as well. The score was this sort of pandering elevator music that just felt pretty empty, and I can only take so many of McKay's picture collages of frogs jumping from trees. I understand the idea of this sort of juxtaposition of beauty in nature and the natural world combined with people effectively damning it, but it was a jarring if not irritating addition here.
All in all I'm kind of confused as to whether I enjoyed watching this or not? It seems as though the rest of the film community is perplexed as well considering Don't Look Up sports a rather divisive Rotten Tomatoes score amongst other reviews, particularly others from McKay's filmography.. The one thing I will finish with however, is that this really shouldn't have been two and a half hours long. There's ample fat that could be trimmed off and constructed as a more pointed and directed film.
Knowing there would be ample amounts of "salt" in this film given its subject matter, Leo being a huge environmental activist, and McKay's penchant for weaponizing wit and humor for addressing serious real-life topics, I needed something...salty.
Bringing me to have an exquisitely paired viewing if I do say so myself, all thanks to a Salted Caramel Stout from Breakside Brewing. This stout is actually a collab with Salt & Straw ice cream and let me tell you, its taste was as creamy and delicious as a beautiful bowl of salted caramel ice cream.
While that statement might make you think it tastes just like ice cream but that's not the case. What you get with this brew is a thick and dark stout that has a rich aroma filled with malt, coffee, chocolate, and of course caramel. It smells like a dessert, but not in an overwhleming way, and it drinks like an immaculate stout. Right out of the gate you get wonderful flavors of malt and chocolate coffee, which then comes around the corner with some hoppy bitters and nice bits of salted caramel to balance it all out.
It finishes not too sweet, not too bitter, and with a small bit of warmth that makes a stout on a cold winter day so amazing.
As a member of team #JustLookUp, I'd say you definitely need to look up this beer and give it an ole college try!