Don’t Look Up: The Best Picture of 2021


Adam McKay is a genius behind the camera as Don’t Look Up takes the satire to the next level with one of the best ensemble casts ever.

Please stay until the end of the credits. There is a mid-credit and post-credit scene.

This film has talent on the same level as It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World while reaching satire at the levels of both Dr. Strangelove and Network. Like those films, Don’t Look Up is a film that only improves with each viewing. I’ve seen it twice now and it gets better each time. It’s to the point where I have to control my laughter when I know what scene is coming up next! When it comes to the cast in this film, you start wondering who isn’t in the movie! Well, aside from Don Rickles, an actor that also got passed over for the epic Stanley Kramer comedy. I mean, there’s a scene here featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and I was flashing back to watching Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance for DiCaprio!

There’s so much I love about this film. I can’t discuss some aspects of it because of spoilers. Honestly, this is one of those films where you’ll benefit from going into it knowing very little. Trust me that you’ll have a better experience this way. While it’s an Adam McKay film, you’re not getting something like Anchorman, Talladega Nights, or Step Brothers. No, this film is closer to the likes of The Other Guys and Vice in terms of its tone. I really love how McKay has evolved as a filmmaker. And yet, he never strays too far from his roots in improv and sketch comedy. We all know that Jonah Hill is a master at improv but the rest of the cast gets a chance to play, too.

The gist of the film is that Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), a doctoral student in astronomy, discovers a comet in orbit within the solar system. She informs professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and then they confirm the worst news ever: the planet-killing comet is headed directly to Earth. The only person in the government giving a damn is Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan). Unlike disaster films like Deep Impact and Armageddon, nobody in the presidential administration gives a damn. Give credit to Adam McKay and co-story writer David Sirota because their satire hits the mark. Looking at President Orlean (Meryl Streep) is like looking at Donald Trump! Oh, there’s no shortage of nepotism either because her fricking Chief of Staff is her son, Jason (Jonah Hill).

Who can Kate and Dr. Mindy turn to if the president is so far up her own ass? The Daily Rip, a morning news show hosted by Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry). This could be seriously be a riff of any morning news show on TV. It doesn’t matter which network show because we know these cable news shows exist. The satire is so on point that McKay even throws in a Network-esque moment with Dr. Mindy. At some point, somebody is going to break because Brie and Jack play with humor way too much in delivering bad news. We’re all going to fucking die! Kate screams, much to her own chagrin. But again, will anyone even bother to listen to them?

Don't Look Up

It’s hard to discuss Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance) and his role in the film without getting into spoiler territory. He’s like what happens when you cross Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos but with their egos being so much larger. With Earth’s fate on the line, Steve Jobs would never pull the sort of stunt that Isherwell does in the film. But again, this man has money so, of course, he’s got the president’s ear as a Platinum Eagle donor.

Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio are just two of the stars in this film and I absolutely love their work. They have a way of just disappearing into their roles. Honestly, I forgot I was watching DiCaprio in the film because he takes his acting to a whole other level. When it comes to Jennifer Lawrence, I love the attitude she brings to her character. She isn’t someone who plays by the rules judging by how she behaves around people in power and on television. I love it! The other thing is that men still vastly outnumber women in the field so maybe Kate will inspire some females to become astronomers.

Jonah Hill is among the few cast members that comes from the world of comedy. He knows how to speak Adam McKay’s language if you will. He absolutely crushes the role, too. You also know that he’s the type of actor who will improvise a lot on set. This is especially the type of film that calls for it!

There’s something here that McKay is trying to say about television, social media obsessions, the 24-hour news cycle, and more. How far do scientists have to go in warning humanity? At some point, the people of the earth need to just look up! To show how hard the satire is hitting, All you need to do is replace the planet-killing comet with the climate crisis, pandemic, or whatever. One can only wonder what the script was like before the pandemic shut the world down and we saw what was happening in real life! The tone of this film is so tricky but composer Nicholas Britell finds a way to capture it with the right score and it is just brilliant. He captures everything that this film needs from the absurdity of it all to the sadness. Give this man an Oscar nomination!

I’m hoping that Criterion releases this film on physical media. Either that or Netflix decides to follow in Disney’s footsteps by including the bonus content on the platform. The gag reels and deleted scenes are among the staples of an Adam McKay movie. The first cut of this film was over three hours long. It was shortened to just over two and a half hours before the final cut. Who wouldn’t want to watch scenes of Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, and Leonardo DiCaprio improvising their way through a press conference?!? I know that I definitely would!

Don’t Look Up is one of the best pictures this year. There are not many filmmakers who could come up with a comedy that responds to living during the Trump years but Adam McKay is one of them. The man is a fricking genius when it comes to satire. I could say so much more but at some point, you’d stop reading.

CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey, Michael Chiklis, Tomer Sisley, with Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep

Netflix releases Don’t Look Up in theaters on December 10 and streaming globally on December 24, 2021.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.