Rated R for a lot of language and sex. While I don't remember any nudity, there is quite a bit of innuendo and on-screen sex (ish). On top of that, it has to do with an affair. Oh, also, practically everybody dies. I suppose that might say a lot about me as an American that I'm more concerned with people having sex in the precursor to the apocalypse than I am about the mass extinction that this movie is all about. Go me and my myopic perspective. R.
DIRECTOR: Adam McKay
When I saw the preview to this one, I knew it was going to be a big deal. I mean, I was lost on how this was going to go directly to Netflix. I mean, I'm thrilled that it did. It kind of keeps in line with the message that the film gives. But I do love that Don't Look Up as a movie became a parallel tale of how everyone is looking out for themselves and that social media is only making things worse.
I have so many ways that I want to start, so I'm just going to pick one. First of all, it is okay to have your own opinion of this movie, regardless of political message. While the message in this movie hits me in a sweet spot, especially if I prioritize my anger over how America handled it's Covid response over global warming, it's not a perfect movie. I think it's actually about an hour too long and the allegory wears a bit thin in the middle. See? Politics aside, I can be critical of something. But there's this whole thing going on where Facebook is accusing the press of being bias against the film. I don't know if that's necessarily true. Okay, it's partially true. No one likes being the butt of the joke and Adam McKay is pretty rough on all parties involved. But there's an almost conspiratorial vibe about opinions on this movie. We apparently need a good conspiracy to keep us running, don't we? I mean, I'm getting straight up angry anytime I even catch a whiff of someone hinting at a conspiracy, so my dander gets all up in a tizzy. I think that the movie is better than a lot of outlets are claiming, but I also see their points. For Adam McKay, a guy that I'm starting to really respect for his political cinema, he might be doing a little coasting.
Not that it is bad. If we're talking about auteur theory, he's nailing a style. Post Anchorman, McKay has this quick and poppy way to make movies about politics. While The Big Short and Vice were both films that were political as well, Don't Look Up is the first one to write a fictional satire, but it has the same vibes as the "Based on a True Story" works. I refuse to call them nonfiction because he has to fictionalize a lot of elements to make his style work. This also places the onus of expectations on the audience's shoulders. Because McKay has been so successful with previous entries, especially in terms of awards, I can see how we have forced him into a corner of expectation. We want to be able to recognize an Adam McKay satire pretty darned quickly. But sometimes that means that he can't really stretch himself as much as he wants to. But this also feels like I'm calling him less than ambitious. Don't Look Up is definitely ambitious. But it is also preachy as get out.
I love McKay. I love that McKay makes these kinds of movies. They are brutal and accusatory. Not much is left to interpretation. It's great. Some people really need to be called out. But one thing that McKay probably needs to learn from someone like Arthur Miller is to find the intended audience of a film. The intended audience of this film is liberals. We're right, you're wrong. It's a problem that progressives have. We love our high horses and that's apparently enough. But there's nothing in the film that is even remotely welcoming to the people who can make honest change. It is such an accusatory film that it comes across as boorish. And the fact that people are claiming that the media is angry at this movie isn't helping when honest change needs to be made. I'm gonna get really soapboxy, which is ironic because I'm railing against soap boxes right now. Donald Trump is going to be a real thread in 2024. It's going to be a problem. I don't know if progressives can turn around and stop him twice. We keep relying on other people. We also have a horrible short term memory and Joe Biden isn't exactly knocking it out of the park for history right now. Alienating the media right now might not be the best thing in the world for climate change actually getting addressed. Some elements of journalism need to be taken down a peg. I completely agree. But McKay is going to the throats of everyone who can make honest change and doesn't challenge them. He berates them and dares them to continue what they're doing. If it was me, I would do what I was doing, only harder. I would encourage people to dismiss this very important movie for the sake of comfort.
But I will say, McKay did get me to talk about it. I mean, I have to wonder if the people I recommended it to will give the movie a chance. The fact that it is imperfect might make it really problematic. Yeah, it's climate change. But the whole eponymous metaphor of not looking up works really well for coronavirus. There's so much evidence in our faces about how bad things are going in the United States and in the world and it baffles me that people can't just accept all of the data being thrown at them. The fact that hospitals are overrun and that the world is on fire, but we're having people fighting for medical freedom in the face of mass death is so disheartening. And that's what McKay is screaming. As much as this is is a criticism of global warming, it's an attack on the comfort of willful ignorance. The more obvious the message is, the less people are willing to believe it. I remember that I used to find conspiracy theories fun. I'm listening to You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes right now and he's talking about all these fun conspiracy theories. Mind you, I'm in the 2012 episodes right now and I get that he was probably me back then. (That sentence got away from me.) But it's this thing where conspiracy theories have ruined society. We kind of are living in the apocalypse, but refuse to call it the apocalypse. The metaphor of the meteor headed to Earth and it can be seen, yet people still deny it is insane.
I have to applaud some of the performances. I thought it was really weird for Meryl Streep to play the president because I don't think that we have a society that was progressive enough to elect a woman president. But Streep's portrayal of a Trump / Marjorie Taylor Greene hybrid works. Couple that with a Jonah Hill borderline just being Donald Trump, Jr. is dead on amazing. It's all these small moments that really put together this great story. There's also this story of corruption that goes pretty well with the narrative. Randall Mindy never loses his goal, but it is seductive to see how he stops paying attention to that goal. Having him juxtaposed to Dibiasky is something perfect. Dibiasky is such a great avatar for the audience, considering that she's a genius scientist. Having this character who sticks to her guns when Mindy loses the plot is such a condemnation of this anti-science movement. Because it doesn't take much for Mindy to lose the thread. It's a little extra TV time and the fact that people like him. Heck, the only reason that Dibiasky might keep her intentions is that she is so unliked. There's nothing really tempting her to deviate from her path. But there also is that chauvinism that is part of society. Of course people deviate to the male perspective about this. Of course, she's overlooked because she's a woman. There was no scenario where she would be the voice of reason to America because she looks the way she does.
But circling back to the beginning: it is too long. It's so so long. It doesn't need to be that long. The message is clear at every moment. Corporations would do anything to make a buck. People hate facts and love confirmation bias. Science is wildly oppressed. It doesn't need to be everything that it is. Honestly --and I can't believe I'm saying this --maybe we should cool it on the character development. We get that every character represents a concept, so why do they need arcs? Honestly, Mindy's entire affair sequence is a great narrative, but almost gets in the way of the actual story being told. This is a movie about message and that's what needs to be told. It's just that too much is happening in an already bloated film.
I did enjoy it. I actually really enjoyed it. But it is a flawed film. Just saying that something is flawed is not a crime. Most movies are flawed, but they're still beautiful. Appreciating something while being critical of it is fine. Perhaps the media is making a bigger stink about it. But I have the vibe that this is being used as a political tool beyond the original intention.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.