Netflix review: DiCaprio holds star-studded satire 'Don't Look Up' together

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 01 2022 11:42 PM

Don't Look Up
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in 'Don't Look Up.' Handout

Michigan State University Astronomy grad student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovered a new comet hurtling towards Earth. Her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo di Caprio), calculated that the mountain-sized comet will hit the Pacific Ocean in about six months and cause a catastrophe that would destroy the entire planet. However, when they tried to inform US President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), they just got the runaround. 

This film was about a coming apocalyptic disaster to be caused by a comet on a collision course with the Earth, much like the story of "Deep Impact" (1998) and "Armageddon" (1998), and more recently "Greenland" (2020). However, while the previous films went for thrills, suspense and melodrama, this new film written, directed and produced by Adam McKay went for disturbing dark comedy and biting political satire against the US government. 

Adam McKay rose to fame as the head writer of "Saturday Night Live" in the 1990s, and went on to collaborate with Will Ferrell on several hit comedy films like "Anchorman" (2004). In the last decade, Mc Kay gained more serious cred as a filmmaker when "The Big Short" (2015) had 5 Oscar nods including Best Picture, winning one for adapted screenplay for McKay. This was followed by "Vice" (2018), which had 8 Oscar nominations, also including Best Picture. 

Watch more News on iWantTFC

Aside from Di Caprio, Lawrence and Streep, there were two more Oscar winners, Cate Blanchett (as a slutty TV host) and Mark Rylance (as a smarmy telco CEO), and two Oscar nominees, Jonah Hill (as the annoying Chief of Staff) and Timothy Chalamet (as skater boy Yule). Also notable are include Rob Morgan (as a NASA official), Ron Perlman (as a Boomer general), Tyler Perry (as Blanchett's co-host) and Ariana Grande (as a pop star, of course).

McKay was harsh here in his depiction of the ineptitude of the US government, the pervasive influence of big business and artificiality of mass media. 

The performance of Di Caprio, as a shy middle-aged scientist thrust into the national celebrity limelight, was the glue that held this piece together. His on-air breakdown scene was a riveting tour-de-force piece of acting, while his dinner table scene brimmed with genuine emotion without the melodrama. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, “Fred Said.”