It’s hard to know if the stellar parade of performances facilitates the outlandish storyline of Don’t look up or gets in the way.
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot going on in Adam McKay’s new satire, but it’s also a lot of fun provided you don’t take it too seriously. One minor point… it kind of asks you to take it seriously.
When astronomers Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo di Caprio) stumble upon a 10km-wide comet on its way to colliding with Earth in just six months, not many believe it. Certainly not the populist president (Meryl Streep), who constantly worries about her image, nor her son and chief of staff (Jonah Hill), who adopt a “wait and see” strategy.
Desperate, the two turn – foolishly – to the media where the morning TV hosts (Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry) keep the conversation light with punchlines and digressions, leaving our heroes to look like paranoid lunatics. But a scandal closer to home will see the president clinging to the cause in hopes of a heroic act of red, white and blue, propelling the comet into a craze sweeping the planet. He points to fake news, social media and anti-
McKay’s roller-coaster script involves romances of convenience, end-of-the-day statements, billionaires meddling, and clashes between politics and religion. That leaves plenty of room for cameos from stars including Ariana Grande (whose comet pop song is both hilarious and scary), Ron Perlmann as an enthusiastic astronaut, Timothée Chalamet as a lovestruck teenager, Mark Rylance as a visionary entrepreneur, Rob Morgan as a scientist, and more.
While Streep’s over-the-top president (no awards for second-guessing his inspiration) and Blanchett’s morning host are delightful fun, it’s DiCaprio’s seething calmness that functions as the film’s backbone. It’s a bit of a shame that a subplot with Blanchett gets in the way of the logic we’re being asked to follow, and the film is a bit too long.
The other question is whether Armageddon on screen is more catastrophic, more believable, than what actually happens, just beyond our screens. But maybe as we all battle a once-in-100-year pandemic, is it possible to get lost and laugh at the impending doom Hollywood has been dreaming of?
Screens Don’t Look Up Friday December 24th on Netflix.