REVIEW / FILM REVIEW – With his royal cast embroiled in satire of the contemporary world, Adam McKay fully achieves what he sketched out with “The Big Short” and “Vice”. Precise, funny and very ambitious in his show, “Don’t Look Up” is a great success.
Don’t Look Up : a very serious comedy
It was at the beginning of winter that, for a few years, Netflix released heavy artillery and presented very high level productions. For example, in 2019 there was The irishman by Martin Scorsese and in 2020 Mank by David Fincher. This year is Don’t Look Up of Adam McKay who carries this banner. Don’t Look Up tells the story of two astrophysicists who, following the discovery of a “planet-killer” meteorite, will do everything to alert the authorities and the public, thus hoping to implement a maneuver to save the planet. Will they succeed?
The answer is in the cinema of Adam McKay, a cinema which is gaining more and more seriousness and endeavors to denounce the faults of our civilization, with an exquisite mastery of black humor. It was already the ambition of his two previous films, it still is in Don’t Look Up, and this ambition is here even better realized. After having fun redefining the great schoolboy comedy with for example The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Brothers in spite of themselves, the screenwriter and director wants to move on, to gain maturity, which also implies gaining distance and, inevitably, cynicism.
Less technical than The Big Short, more international than Vice
Adam McKay, after having imposed himself in the purely comic vein with his former partner Will Ferrell, made a radical shift with The Big Short in 2015. A prestigious casting, a hot topic – the financial crisis of 2008 – a staging which plays for this film with the manners of the documentary and which blossoms in sequences of virtuoso dialogues. But the subject, very technical, left many perplexed. See Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling talk about subprime, short selling and other stock market movements was as alluring as it was unsettling.
With Vice, the format of the biopic to tell the political course of Dick Cheney under the Bush administration, with a remarkable performance by Christian Bale to the key, is theoretically more unifying, but succeeds a little less well than The Big Short, probably the fault of a divisive subject in the United States and distant for the rest of the world.
With Don’t look up, Adam McKay transcends these limits to perfect his performance. On the subject which concerns par excellence the whole world, its individuals as well as its societies, with the choice of a dramatic comedy narrative rather than that of the documentary, the director hits the mark and almost fully realizes his intentions. The criticism is sharp, the humor takes many forms, the spectacle is total and permanent. As Adam McKay’s cinema has the characteristic of being explicit, it is vividly apparent that Don’t Look Up is thus his most mastered “serious” work.
A great team at work
As with his previous films, Adam McKay brings together the Hollywood gratin in front of his camera. He is even stronger by offering one of the main roles to Leonardo DiCaprio, undoubtedly the greatest actor of his generation but a priori reluctant to engage in comedies. Worried, with a somewhat clumsy, stressed physique, he succeeds perfectly in his role as altruistic astrophysicist but exposed to the sirens of notoriety. It’s no surprise – has he ever missed a performance? -, Martin Scorsese’s favorite actor is quite comfortable in this genre and captivates with each of its appearances.
As for the rest of the cast, no false note. Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill, hilarious comedy duo we absolutely want to see again, Timothée Chalamet and Jennifer Lawrence on a more tender and melancholy score, guests Top performers like Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry, all deliver performances that we would be sorry to find fault with. Special mention to Mark Rylance in tech mogul as funny as it is creepy, completely disconnected and carrying a harsh critique of real-world Zuckerbergs, Besos and Musk.
Like the casting, the other participants of Don’t Look Up assure. Nicholas Britell, genius composer, also currently in the spotlight with Succession – a series produced by … Adam McKay – successfully reunites with the director for a third collaboration. In photography, Linus Sandgren, a close collaborator of Damien Chazelle and especially at work on another super-production of the year: To die can wait. All these talents …