In this apocalyptic satire from Oscar-winning writer/director Adam McCay (Vice, The Big Short) astronomy PhD student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a comet hurtling straight towards the earth. She and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) try to alert the powers that be of the impending danger, but of course it’s not that easy to get people to listen. After all, it’s just too much of a downer and all that sciency stuff isn’t sexy. And the President of the US (Meryl Streep) can’t see how panicking the public can help in her train wreck of a reelection bid. Meanwhile there’s a tech billionaire (Mark Rylance) in the wings trying to see how it can make him even richer. Can anyone save the earth from the earthlings?
They have just six months to get it together and stop the comet. There’s a possibility that it can be knocked off course, but the President isn’t in a hurry to do anything. So Dibiasky and Mindy go on a media tour and snag a slot on the most popular morning show The Daily Rip hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). But the TV celebrities aren’t really interested in talking about subjects that can’t be light and jokey, though Brie is personally very interested in Dr. Mindy, as are the female viewers.
And then there’s that billionaire who has made a fortune in tech, and heading into space to mine the uber-valuable minerals on that comet is just too attractive, though his plan for getting them might not be the best. But to hell with the scientists! And to hell with facts! And at the same time, movements are springing up to deny that the comet even exists. Sound familiar? The plot definitely mirrors the climate crisis we’re now facing, and apparently DiCaprio wouldn’t sign on until the script made that clear. Is it heavy handed at times? Sure. But it’s an important message delivered with humor and recognition.
Don’t Look Up is funny and scary and incredibly well-written. It also has an outstanding ensemble cast. Streep, DiCaprio, Lawrence, and Blanchett are all their usual fabulously talented selves. Mark Rylance continues to be one of my favorite actors around. And in smaller roles, Jonah Hill is perfect as the President’s idiot son who’s also her Chief of Staff while Timothée Chalamet pops up as a spiritual skateboarder who hooks up with Dibiasky after she’s been sidelined for being too belligerent in the face of apocalypse-denial. And Ariana Grande sings the title song with Kid Cudi that’s worth the price of admission alone.
Lyrics include: What he’s really trying to say
Is get your head out of your ass
And listen to the goddamn qualified scientists
We really fucked it up, fucked it up this time.
Don’t Look Up has split the critics and audiences, with many panning it and others like me feeling that it’s definitely worth watching. It clocks in at 2 hrs and 25m, and certainly could have done with a bit of judicious cutting, but I still highly recommend it to wide audiences. (And be sure to stay through the credits.)
In theaters Friday, December 10th and on Netflix on Friday, December 24th.