Don’t Look Up. Three words create a giant controversy. If you watch even a few seconds of attention to the news, this is pretty obvious. I will start by saying this movie is satire, it is dangerously true to life. It is also hilarious and true and beautiful. I don’t typically watch movies about political satire, but after these past 2 years, I felt interested. I heard this movie addresses our modern age and includes some famous people and was like, I gotta watch that. You know, sometimes, it’s not that deep. I see Meryl Streep and Timothee Chalamet and I click.
Don’t Look Up begins when Kate Dibasky (Jennifer Lawrence), a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, discovers a comment that will hit the earth and destroy the world. She then must, along with her professor Randall Mindy (Leonardo Decaprio) inform the president of the United States.
The film has got a ton of celebrities: Meryl Street plays the self-interested president. Timothee Chalumet plays a young Evangelical hippie guy and Ariana Grande plays a famous singer nearly identical to herself.
I enjoyed this movie more than I thought. The film was written to address climate change and politics, but the themes of denial and politicization of a threat to human lives fit the pandemic pretty well too. That is partially why the movie is so big. Other than knowing that Don’t Look Down is a satire of American politics and features celebrities, I really didn’t know what to expect.
In this review, I’ll be talking about 5 main ideas I thought of watching this movie. I was pleasantly surprised by what the movie decided to cover. Some characters—Leonardo DiCaprio—are downright unlikeable at times, but somehow, I made it through, partially due to Jennifer Lawrence and Timothee Chalamet.
l. Leonardo DiCaprio is unlikable
It is very hard to like Randall Mindy ( Leonardo Decaprio). Randall is introduced as a camera-shy scientist who views life as a series of facts. We quickly learn, however, that the minute the awkward scientist gets recognition, he falls in with the crowd. He starts off insisting on science and I imagine he’s going to be the voice of reason.
But I, perhaps idealistically, turned out to be wrong about Mindy. Peter Isherwille, the (evil) tech guru understands him. Randall’s fatal flaw is that he is shy and insecure and wants people to like him. Unlike most of the population, he accepts the fact that his life will end in six months. To avoid that horrifying truth, he allows fame to distract him.
“I know what you are, you are a lifestyle idealist. You’re just thrown towards pleasure and away from pain like a field mouse.”Peter Isherwillie
It also seems like Mindy has an anxiety disorder. He mentions that he takes Xanax and Zoloft. The audience isn’t told any specifics, but he gets visibly anxious before going on TV. Overall, medications (and alcohol) are tools that the characters use to numb the pain of the events happening to them. Randall shares his medications with Kate, which is clearly problematic, after they find out about the meteor.
Both characters pursue or at least accept momentary pleasure when it is offered to them, but DeCaprio is the one who annoyed me.
Kate takes medication and gets high with Yule, but she doesn’t harm anyone else.
Randall is a married man, and his wife cares for several teenage sons mostly by herself. One of his sons takes medication, but he is pretty oblivious about how to be a good father. He has responsibilities as a father, husband, and scientist, and he neglects them all.
The haircut is the start of his ruin. Before he goes on the news to talk about the meteor, the studio cuts Randall’s hair and shapes his beard. The news crew won’t listen what he is going to say, even if he is literally telling them the world will end soon, but they do want him to look hot. The media grooms him like a golden retriever and he falls into their trap so easily. Talk show reporter Brie Evantee (Kate Blanchett) flirts with Randall on set, and after a few interviews, he begins an affair with her as his wife struggles to raise their sons alone. In addition to getting with a reporter, Randall personally recieves almost no backlash for his behavior and he is just the pretty face. Randall is dubbed the hottest scientist by the media, and he rides safely in the limousine of privilege as the truth as society crumbles around him.
While the impending damage of the meteor is downplayed in interviews, and Randall is featured on Elmo, Kate is mocked and reduced to a meltdown meme. Randal is her teacher and he is supposed to be supporting her, but he leaves her in the dust. I wonder if the film was making a point about sexism in the media. Kate is horrified by the public’s attempts to downplay the imminent death of the world and she is honest and upset. Everyone should be upset. But the media portrays her as overly emotional and a joke. No one takes her seriously.
People don’t take Randall seriously, but he never suffers the amount of vitriol that Kate receives. Even when he finally breaks down and screams and swears at the public, no one judges him. In a traumatic situation like this, there is no one way to react or process, but Kate is the only one who is insulted for her grief.
In turn, Randall doesn’t protect Kate and slowly allows the media to take the narrative from him. Randall becomes a shallow, morally bankrupt version of his former self. He was once a man who loved science and facts. He saw life as a series of truths and put facts and honesty above all.
He then settles into an extremely shallow relationship with reporter Brie Evantee. From what we know about her, Bre was born into a wealthy family and has been taught to be very shallow. Brie never broaches a conversation topic below the surface. Her banter with her co-star Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) is marketed as light and fun. They jump from death to celebrity drama with little care.
I almost felt bad for Bre at first but then she turned out to be a terrible person. She is the one to pursue him even though she knows he’s married. She is clearly capable of being blunt too. She is honest with Randall and his wife about the affair. She is capable of honesty on TV, but she only is honest when it can get her what she wants. Their relationship also mirrors Randall’s relationship with the press. He exchanges integrity for sex appeal and a shallow relationship with the media, where he occasionally spits out facts to an uninterested population.
Randall sucks for the affair. I was disappointed there wasn’t more of a downfall to his character. His wife loves him and takes care of their sons. She gets mad at him rightfully, but then she just forgives him–with the excuse that she cheated on him in college. I get that it is the end of the world, but this guy gets so much slack, and it annoys me when shows ignore the results of cheating. They just sort of blow it off with a joke. Instead, I wish she had genuinely forgiven him if she ever wanted to and that the cheating wasn’t trivialized.
I also hated how he let Kate get made fun of while he was a hero. He never apologizes to Kate. He also gets the best lines at the end and is still the good guy, but Kate has been nothing but kind, honest, and considerate. Kate deals with the worst of the press. She is the true star of this film, but this guy gets the closing lines. I get it, he had everything and lost it all. He also gets a great ending. At least Kate gets Timothee Calumet.
As much as I complain, I appreciate his character arch from honest scientist to a shallow famous face.
It is an eternal truth that power and influence corrupt. For that reason, I liked that Mindy was morally grey. The movie could have made the scientists always act with good intentions and exist as paragons of virtue. I’m glad they didn’t. It would feel too preachy.
Everyone is guilty of ignoring pain and seeking pleasure. No one is completely innocent and pure, even if they believe and say the right things. Our values don’t stop us from screwing up. We are all capable of committing the evils we claim to abhor.
2. Don’t Look Up Makes fun of current politics with wonderful accuracy
The president and her son felt like they were genuinely related. She feels like Donald Trump and he feels like one of Trump’s children. The hairstyle and clothing designers knew how to dress the actors for the parts. The nepotism feels so realistic, unfortunately and Jason Orlean is a spoiled brat and Jonah Hill plays that so well and I loved to hate him and president Orlean. The jokes are direct parallels to the real Trump presidency. There is a scene where Jason says his mother is a smoke show or something similar and that he would date her if she was not his mom. That reminds me of what Trump has said about Ivanka.
The scenes showing her supporters and her choice of the cabinet mirrored Trump. Her hat and flag match him to a T. The movie also shows how our media excuses the racist and sexist behavior of others. The old man the president chooses to fly into space makes racist remarks but the media excuses the things he said because he is from “a different time.” This is classic lampshading. No one is held to any moral standard, and the politicians just don’t care because they have power.
The politician’s ignorance of meteor don’t harm themselves, but their supporters. If the president of the United States is telling you that something is true, you should expect honesty. Especially it involves your health or the fact that something could kill you.
Near the beginning, Kate is charged $20 for snacks and water from a member of the staff, only to find out later that food in the White House is free. She wonders why he would scam her like that. Sometimes people do jerky things for kicks and it is so annoying. Political office and power allow humans to do unreasonable things, and I liked the ongoing conversation. In situations where people do bad things, sometimes we remember the simple stuff the most.
3. Engagement with Political Activism/Issues and shallowness of Media
The movie shows how the reporters, politicians, and everyone else preferred a shallow existence to one that recognizes the facts of life. We would rather pretend problems don’t exist and that we live in a perfect world. We’d rather pretend the news doesn’t apply to us and won’t affect us personally. The media we consume caters to our human desire for comfort, safety, and ignorance.
The scene with Ariana Grande still bugs me. She wanted to talk about her charity, saving the manatees, but the press only cares about her breakup. This is one time where a non-scientist wants to do something good for the environment, and no one lets her. She cares about the climate and help others become more aware of the problems around her, but what about Pete Davidson? The apathy of these people was heartbreaking.
Instead, people escape into her relationship drama. Her drama doesn’t affect their lives, but people like the escape into someone else’s false feelings rather than acknowledge their own. They want drama, as long as it doesn’t affect them, and a happy ending is always enjoyable, even if it is fake. It isn’t until she performs a song to look up that fans and the media listen. But by then, there is nothing else they can do.
4. The Film Mocks Big Tech and Its Flirtation with Science
Peter Isherwell plays a good villain, he acts with an awkward certainty that just feels like a powerful tech billionaire. He is supposed to parody Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and all those rich tech people. The dude is so obsessed with wealth. He saw a literal meteor that will kill all people and the first thing the man thinks of was to let it hit the earth and then mine it for gold.
He also uses science and causes like ending world hunger and restoration of biodiversity to justify taking a risk in pursuit of profit. His tech ads are promoted to help people, but they also are supposed to cater to our every desire and need. Science is really an excuse to cater to our individual needs and make money off those needs rather than improve the world around us. We become self-centered and dependent on our devices. We go to them when we are sad and want to be happy. Then they follow an algorithm and give us what we think we need. The tech company BASH argues that phones can predict all.
Technology is also described using religious language. Drones are mankind’s savior. “You’re gonna be a god in the sky,” he says. Technology is a new means of understanding the world. It is religion, it is science, it is philosophy. When he talks about his phone company, Peter says:
“This is evolution, the evolution of the human species.”
Is it? Is it really? Technology is idealized so much. It is supposed to solve all our problems and make our lives perfect apparently. This film laughs at that idea. The media spreads sparky, empty news. Phones distract people and make them happy when they should panic. Technology only serves to dissuade people, rather than encourage them to care about humanity. It is only when people let go of tech and focus on each other that they’re able to be real and have honest conversations. Tech paints a false promise of utopia, but that is wrong. Isherwell calls the age of tech the Golden Age, which was a time of prosperity in Greece, but the characters are their best when they are together, sitting down at a meal with no screens in sight.
“Isherwell calls the age of tech the Golden Age, which was a time of prosperity in Greece, but the characters are their best when they are together, sitting down at a meal with no screens in sight.”
I liked how he was wrong about Randall’s death. Technology can’t control and predict the world; data does not capture an entire person. He didn’t surrender to impulse and momentary pleasure and returned to his wife and sons. He brings his friends along. He chose to invest in the people around him. He didn’t die alone.
I do wonder what will happen next. The tech lord won and I’m not sure his new society will be a better one. Will the naked people be addicted to their phones for happiness? Will they stage a revolt? Hopefully, we never have to find out. Maybe they’ll all die, after all, the scientist guy is the type to start a war. I’m kind of hoping for a sequel.
5. Engagement with Evangelical Christianity
I’ve seen quite a few movies where characters are asked if they believe in God, but this movie portrays Christianity a lot more than many. Timothee Chalemet plays Yule, a young man who was raised by Evangelical parents. He grew up in the countryside and wears a camo baseball hat. He is one of my favorite characters.
Don’t Look Up portrays religion pretty satirically at first. The politicians invoke God and Jesus but only as a means to accomplish their political aims. Their level of pandering is so obvious and hilarious, and this sadly occurs in real life–to people of all groups. Politicians use language to make people think they care about interests greater than themselves. News flash–they don’t. The people who support the president parody Trump supporters. They are one-dimensional charicatures. In a satire, and the film aims to call out politicians. The film accomplishes its message, while stereotypes aren’t ideal, it fits the film’s purpose well. It feels more honest than offensive, and pandering by politicians should be called out way, way more than it currently is.
So, back to Timothee, his parents are Evangelical Christians and he disagrees with what they stand for and says he doesn’t like them. If we look at stereotypes, his parents are likely conservative Evangelical Christians. They likely voted for this president who claimed to support them and their values. He could easily have rejected the faith he grew up in as a nonsense but he doesn’t. He says he figured out how to believe in God in his own way, but it is somewhat unclear at first what he means. Yule is a young guy who is learning about life outside of the one he grew up in for the first time.
I liked how Yule skeptical of the meteor. He doesn’t believe in it initially because he hasn’t heard anything else from his environment, but he’s open to listening to Kate when she tells him the truth. He can listen to others with respect without their words threatening him.
We see Yule pray on the roof with Kate, and his faith feels learned, but genuine. He isn’t repeating a family prayer in a sense of desperation. His faith is real and his own. Is he a perfect person, of course not, but that’s what makes him a good character. For a movie about science that partly mocks Evangelical people, his character could have been a quirky stoner stereotype, but instead, the writes decided to create a Christian character with respect. I would argue he and Kate as well is a moral center to the film. While the people around him worry and are filled with fear, he is a calm presence.
At the end of the most, we see Yule praying for everyone by their request. June and Dr. Randall Mindy are not particularly religious, they have no idea how to pray and only know that saying amen is part of the process. Still, they ask Yule to pray for them because it feels important.
“Dearest Father and Almighty Creator… …we ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride. Your forgiveness, despite our doubt. Most of all, Lord… We ask for Your love to soothe us through these dark times. May we face whatever is to come… …in your divine will with courage and open hearts of acceptance. Amen.”
At this point, everyone has given up any sense of control, they know they will die within minutes. June asked Yule to pray because she was scared. They all are; they fear death and what is to come and are looking for peace and acceptance.
Pride is a big force in this movie. Randall enjoys media attention and does not try to help stop the events around him out of pride. He likes feeling good about himself over fear. Tech billionaire Peter Isherwell denies the need to peer-review his plan to combat the meteor because of pride. He thinks he can fix it himself. The same goes for the president.
At this moment, the characters have a choice. They can fight and they can get angry. They can cry or isolate themselves or go into denial. Instead, they accept their fate. They understand their lack of power and they come together to give their attention to something greater than themselves. Relief doesn’t rely on them alone, and they accept that. Though all the characters are not openly religious, the moment is beautiful and unites all of them. They are accepting what they can’t change and Timothee prays for their fate in God’s hands. They are also holding each other’s hands, they are connected, unified in this terrifying situation, but they are not afraid.
The themes of acceptance and forgiveness are at the heart of this movie. So many characters try to change the world to fit their own perception of reality and hold grudges and false perceptions about others. The reporters try to distort the facts and put on false cheer. The president and tech leader aim for their own success instead of pursuing and accepting the truth. As much as we disagree with Randall’s cheating, he comes back to his wife and asks for forgiveness and she accepts him into her home. She chooses to forgive instead of getting angry and he is honest about his mistake. He doesn’t excuse his behavior or alter the facts.
So much of this movie is full of people altering facts. The ending itself is just beautiful. Timothee’s prayer, acceptance, humility, and connection between the group are powerful. Even though they barely know each other, they face this terrifying event together. That scene redeems the hopeless tragedy that humans have created.
If you’ve seen this movie, what do you think? What do you think of the things I pointed out? Let me know down in the comments below.