Don’t Look Up

After upgrading from loud Will Ferrell comedies to smart if experimentally scattershot docudramas about economics and politics (The Big Short and Vice, respectively), director/cowriter Adam McKay attempts a hybrid with Don't Look Up, a would-be Dr. Strangelove for the 2020s that, although it doesn't entirely succeed, is ultimately worth a watch.

Set in the near future, Don't Look Up opens realistically enough, as astronomy PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence in a fine return to form) discovers a new comet, and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) charts its trajectory... only to conclude that it is absolutely certain to collide with Earth in six and a half months.

Kate and Randall take their terrifying discovery straight to the White House, hoping to find a solution to destroy the comet before it destroys the planet. Instead they encounter a bunch of incompetent narcissists who do not believe their message and do not care. Although McKay and cowriter David Sirota flip the genders of their Donald and Ivanka Trump analogs, giving us an obnoxious President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her even more obnoxious son/chief of staff Jason (Jonah Hill, his ad-lib skills as keen as ever), it's pretty clear which recent administration they're lampooning.

The rest of Don't Look Up skewers our media-saturated world, wavering between sharply observed social satire and silly, self-congratulatory comedy, a big-budget blend of Deep Impact and Idiocracy. It doesn't always work, especially when we are introduced to a spacey, Warhol-like tech mogul embodied by the usually reliable Mark Rylance. But with a top-drawer cast that also includes the ubiquitous Cate Blanchett and Timothée Chalamet, and even my former leading lady Melanie Lynskey as Randall's long-suffering wife (how strange to see her portray the mother of adult children!), the film is never not entertaining, even when it hits false notes. And its underlying message is heartbreakingly real, especially in these days of Covid-19: if you once had any hope that people would set aside their differences and self-interests in times of great crisis, and you have now lost that hope, then Adam McKay understands completely.