‘Don’t Look Up’ doesn’t really warrant a review. It is a quite unremarkable film. It is light entertainment, some mild comedy coupled with some parody and satire that works reasonably well without being overly taxing. Directed by Adam McKay of ‘The Big Short’ who has a solid track record of quality films, ‘Don’t Look Up’ has a cast of Hollywood’s biggest names: Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and Cate Blanchett – all names well known for being among the wokest of woke and signalling their virtue.
And this is what makes the film worth reviewing. I am confused. I watched it without giving much thought to the historical histrionics of many of the films leading lights. I watched Streep blatantly parody Donald Trump – only a female version that smokes and drinks – but wears the baseball cap; DiCaprio plays the ethical scientist who briefly went astray but saw the light; J-Law is the radical student with pink hair who hysterically screams ‘You’re all going to f***ing die’.
Well done Hollywood for parodying the stereotypes of both sides, I thought.
I understand that the comet is apparently a metaphor for climate change with the film blatantly exaggerating the characteristics that are stereotyped across both sides of the climate debate – or indeed any debate in the modern age. There are the Trump/Streep rust-belt supporters who ‘Don’t look up’ (or don’t want to see the science) and then there are those in the Leo/J-Law camp who are pleading with the rednecks to look up (and see the science/comet) before it is all too late. I couldn’t really figure out if Cate Blanchett was Fox News or CNN at different stages.
It was an ok film I thought. The highlight was probably Ariana Grande singing
“Look up, what he’s really trying to say
Is get your head out of your ass
Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists
We really f***ed it up, f***ed it up this time
It’s so close, I can feel the heat big time
And you can act like everything is alright
Just look up
Turn off that sh*t Fox News
‘Cause you’re about to die soon everybody”
But then I read some reviews and I wondered did I miss something. There was one on IndieWire that wonders if the film is ‘too funny for the Oscars’. The Oscars? It isn’t too funny. It just isn’t Oscar material. The film is shallow. The acting fairly basic. Over-acting is the call of the day, if nothing else. But IndieWire and others seemed to be taking the allegory for climate change absolutely seriously.
Director McKay it seems is not parodying both sides – or at least that is how some of those celebrating the wonderful comedic genius combined with an important moral lesson see the film. These are serious stereotypes being accentuated. DiCaprio, the ethical scientist, and J-Law, the radical student, are real heroes fighting the stupidity of the Trumpian rust-belt workers.
It couldn’t be, I thought. If that is the case, then the film is just really poor. It isn’t the satire I thought it was but another example of woke posturing. Surely Adam McKay is better than that? Or at least more subtle?
Then along came Brendan O’Neill on Spiked-online, leading with a headline of the ‘unbearable smugness of the Netflix elite’, in this ‘preposterous movie that is wrong about everything’.
I thought ‘No, Brendan, no, you have got this completely wrong. Like IndieWire, you are taking the satire seriously. They triggered you and you fell for it.’ Maybe there is brilliance in McKay’s creating such an unsubtle satire that it inspires left reviewers to rave about it at the same time as triggering commentators such as O’Neill into taking the film seriously, unable to see beyond or outside the bunkers of the stereotypes and divisions that have become so deeply embedded in society.
On that reading, writers McKay and Sirota are genius. They have created a subtle, not-so-subtle parody, non-parody that is shallow and doubly deep in its meaning, making the woke and the anti-woke look foolish and blinkered both at the same time, one extolling the virtues of the film as a climate change allegory, and the other who see the movie as a 145 minute lecture rather than a pretty lame spoof.
I revert to my original understanding. It’s an average film, light entertainment, read into it what you may. As O’Neill says ‘It really is this unsubtle’ and my advice would be not to take it too seriously. It isn’t too funny for the Oscars. It isn’t Oscar material. Nor is it a preposterous film. But if both left and right are taking it seriously then maybe I am just wrong.
If my reading is wrong and O’Neill and IndieWire are right then it’s a pretty rubbish film.
But maybe it is genius. Maybe we are all gone so polarised and predictable that we cannot see past our prejudices – whether of Donald Trump and his followers or the liberal elite of Netflix/Hollywood/California/New York – allowing McKay and Sirota (and Leo, Meryl, J-Law) to sit back and laugh at us erupting in apoplexy on the one hand and fawning at the false virtue-signalling on the other, being appalled and amazed at the same time.