Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up – Reviews

“I have the impression that this is not my job,” says anxious astrophysicist and university professor Randall Mindy (Leonardo Dicaprio), just before getting on a train headed for the cruel, chaotic and cynical world of the media. His interlocutor is Clayton “Teddy” Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), head of the Coordination Office of Planetary Defense: «he has only to expose the facts. Keep it simple. No formulas, “he replies. The meeting with the President of the United States, Jean Orlean (Meryl Streep), has failed, politics is not interested in the arrival of the meteor that will destroy the planet, so it has proved necessary to find an alternative way (television) to warn humanity of the impending catastrophe. The problem is that the professor does not seem able to explain what will happen, or at least not in the most effective way for a non-competent audience (“but it’s all a formula …”). Fortunately, with Mindy is her much stronger (briefly) PhD student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), the one who accidentally discovered the arrival of the meteorite and who from the beginning of the film embodied the viewer’s incredulous point of view: how is it possible that no one takes the terrible news seriously?

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence. Still from “Don’t Look Up” (2021). Director: Adam McKay

In the words of the commander Oglethorpe seems to hide the sense of Don’t Look Up, the latest film directed by Adam Mckay for Netflix. Perhaps thanks to the streaming platform itself, given the vastness of its subscribers, this sci-fi satire of Kubrickian descent (Doctor Strangelove, 1964) presents a significant simplification of the director’s playful, frenetic, metatextual style, especially when compared to the two films that have consecrated him among the most interesting authors of recent years: The big bet (2015) and Vice – The man in the shadows (2018). Considerable as the final act of an ideal post-9/11 power trilogy, at first glance Don’t Look Up looks like a mere “show of the surreal” (to quote the PhD student Dibiasky) at the complete service of the stars and divas who make up the cast. And in this it is symptomatic to have filled the film, and the analysis it makes of contemporary society, with a cynicism so turbid and diabolical as to erase any ambiguity or curious nuance: there is no charm or mystery in this end of the world, only a great repulsion that cloaks every little hope (the Chief of Staff of Jonah Hill or the space-cowboy of Ron Perlman are symbols of this choice). Just think about how much they enjoyed them losers anti-heroes who bet against Wall Street (a reinterpretation of the heist-movie à la Ocean’s Eleven from Steven Soderbergh), or how hypnotic was Vice President Dick Chaney’s rapid rise to power (with the Richard III from William Shakespeare taken as guideline). But precisely because of this declared simplicity Don’t Look Up manages to hit exactly where he wanted to hit.

Neither The big bet, to overcome the fourth wall and reaffirm the biographical nature of the story, reality broke into cinematic fiction, mingled with it, however, running along parallel tracks; how to forget it he explains it in the bathtub of Margot Robbie or that of Selena Gomez in front of a game table in a casino. Instead in Don’t Look Up, as it had already been partially in Vice – the man in the shadows (thanks to yet another physical transformation of Christian Bale), fiction has been studied at the table to be a reflection of reality, to replace it, making its possible and explicit appearance almost useless. Central is the sequence in which Mindy has a nervous breakdown during the morning show conducted by the handsome journalists of Cate Blanchett And Tyler Perry. At a certain point, through the typical zoom used in television living rooms, the director sets a very close-up on the blue eyes of the professor (and therefore of the actor), those for which he was crowned as a sexy icon. Adam McKay he replaces the cinema camera with a studio camera, well aware that the passage will not disturb the viewer because it is bombarded at all times by any kind of image. And it does so not so much to increase the intensity or veracity of the performance, but to quote and exploit the modus operandi of that “assault” journalism that maliciously tries to distract the viewer (and therefore us, Netflix viewers sitting on the sofa) from uncomfortable words and concepts.

Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Meryl Streep. Still from “Don’t Look Up” (2021). Director: Adam McKay

Therefore the aforementioned metatextual character of the cinema of Adam McKay It no longer manifests itself inside the screen but outside, directly in the mind of the viewer who, pampered in a very comfortable position of privilege (the goal is to make us feel morally superior to all the characters), immediately recognizes the distinctive features of his daily experience. For example it is impossible not to associate Steve Jobs or Elon Musk to the disturbing tech genius Peter Isherwell (an unpublished Mark Rylance who parodies his character in Ready Player One from Steven Spielberg), just as it is easy to pick up the movements and words of the ex-president Donald Trump in the performance of a Meryl Streep combed like a pop star of the early 2000s. But the list could go on and on given the quantity of references to our present: from the eternal return of white supremacism to the complete mistrust of science and its emissaries (unable, among other things, to explain themselves), passing through the horrendous emptiness of mainstream entertainment and the destruction of complex concepts through slogans as long as a hashtag (Look Up/Don’t Look Up).

Meryl Streep. Still from “Don’t Look Up” (2021). Director: Adam McKay

In all this delirium without apparent end Don’t Look Up however, he manages to bring out his most important message, and the merit, to return to the maze of metatextuality, must be shared with the strong stage presence of Leonardo Dicaprio, one of the most committed activist-actors in the fight against climate change. It is precisely when he plays with mirrors (or with meme, given the theme) that Adam McKay he gives his best and, although he has stripped himself of “formulas” (even too much), he reminds us how much his undeniable genius always keeps him at a safe distance from any form of trivialization. But in this case it is also the reason why, most likely, the film works more in post-viewing speeches than during its course. Right or wrong, the individual spectator will decide.

“We’re all gonna fucking die.”

Leave a Comment