Don't Look Up (Adam McKay, 2021, USA)

Don't Look Up is the latest film by director Adam McKay. McKay's career has been an interesting one. He started his career in the comedy space, working with Will Ferrell on several megablockbusters including the Anchorman series. While these films included nods to social satire, they were films that were enjoyed by wide audiences. As the comedy genre as a whole began to falter in terms of box office returns in the second decade of the 2000s, McKay transitions toward more serious and political films - The Big Short, a biographical dramedy about the financial crisis, and Vice - a biopic of former American Vice President Dick Cheney. 

Don't Look Up is more overtly comedic than those two films in both substance and storyline, but in a way, it is also more political. In this way, it seems to represent a fusion of McKay's comic sensibility and his political orientation. The premise is simple - two astronomers (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) discover a comet hurtling toward Earth. Their task is to convince the President and the American government to take action. This proves much more difficult than expected, with all parties involved worried more about their self-interest than the salvation of the planet. The satire here is very broad, aiming for the political system (Meryl Streep & Jonah Hill), the media (Cate Blanchett and Tyler), vapid celebrity culture (Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi), and many other targets.

While the film was intended as a satire of the climate change issue, the entire film could equally be about COVID-19. The fact that many of the things portrayed in the film have come true since it was conceived perhaps makes the satire feel a bit too on-the-nose. That being said, Don't Look Up ultimately expresses the desire to transcend this system that we all exist under. It is a great representation of the cultural moment.



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