‘We really did have everything, didn’t we?‘
There are numerous examples of a disconnect between film critics and the cinema going public throughout history, most recently Bohemian Rhapsody. This happens for a number of reasons, most of them tedious, and yet it seems to have become more of a hot button issue recently in a world that loves conflict. Don’t Look Up is the latest example of this phenomenon (although anecdotally I know a bunch of people that also hated this movie). Critically reviled but vaunted elsewhere, Don’t Look Up is clearly a divisive film. So, who would have thought that a film so divisive could be so damn boring?
Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo Di Caprio) and his PhD student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discover that a comet ‘the size of Mount Everest’ is hurtling towards the earth. Predictably, nobody on earth listens. The incredible cast of characters that don’t heed this warning includes (deep breath): Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande and Melanie Lynskey. Undoubtedly one of the most talented casts ever assembled. And yet… they combine to produce something smug, predictable and facile. A two hour and 23 minute sneer. An insulting pastiche of satire.
Director Adam McKay, who I am historically a big fan of, takes a bunch of things that literally everyone on the planet already knows (social media is bad, society is vacuous and empty, capitalism is bad, society is more fractured and broken than ever, climate change is bad etc etc), and hits the viewer over the head with these truisms with as much subtlety as the gurning, over-the-top performances that the film contains. This shtick has been done so many times and much better. Early Black Mirror episodes, Bobcat Goldthwaite’s God Bless America, the 70s seminal classic Network, the work of Mike Judge (specifically Idiocracy and Silicon Valley), I could go on and on. And on.
I saw Don’t Look Up described somewhere as a two-hour-plus SNL skit (apologies to whoever wrote that zinger, I can’t recall the source) and this is accurate. Because like most SNL skits, McKay’s film is too long, too shrill and not even remotely funny. I was so bored by the end that I spent the last 30 minutes playing Stick Cricket on a second screen.
I went into this movie desperately wanting to love it. I’ve followed McKay since his early comedies, I love J-Law, Lynskey and Jonah Hill (who is incidentally the only person who comes out of this with any credit), and the subject matter is very much in my wheelhouse. Instead, I was presented with a bunch of millionaires condescendingly peacocking about how smart they are whilst simultaneously espousing cliches that I read on Twitter every single day.
Don’t Look Up is a heavy handed, didactic mess. A truly terrible cinematic experience that actually made me wish the world was ending by the time the credits rolled. Now, let’s never speak of it again.