CRITICAL — don’t look up by Adam McKay is a satirical disaster film. Adam McKay is the director ofAnchor man (1 and 2), of Talladega Nights and of The Big Short (Le casse du siècle, 2015) on the subprime crisis of 2008, then Vice (2018), portrait of Dick Cheney, George Bush’s vice-president.
The antithesis of the series black-mirror
The plot of don’t look up (“ don’t look up “) Is simple. Two scientists, Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discover a comet ten kilometers in diameter heading towards Earth. The impact, expected in six months and 14 days, would wipe out the human species. NASA confirms their calculations. The two scientists, accompanied by the director of NASA’s planetary defense center, Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), decide to alert humanity and come up against political and media powers: the White House, led by President Janie Orlean (Merryl Streep), a kind of feminized Trump, and his son, Jason, chief of staff (Johan Hill), journalists Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry), co-hosts of the first “talk- show” of the country, The Daily Rip, the two main influencers/pop star (Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi) and the prestigious New York Herald.
This Netflix production is the antithesis of the series black-mirror taking the satirical option. Satire is a story that attacks something while making fun of it. She uses various processes, including that of exaggerating a real situation to the point that it becomes ridiculous or grotesque. Except that here, there is no real or believable situation on which the viewer could rely. Basically, the most interesting part of the film is extra-cinematic, that is to say how it manages to eliminate or not to treat the satirical elements which it nevertheless apparently offers to the spectators as enticing entertainment. In other words, a bloodless satire of its foundations.
“Everything is overrated and stressed”
The potential of such a film is ruined by its direction. ramshackle », made up of quick shots, on the sly as if taken from life (hand-held camera with tight editing), without subtlety and flashy, a predictable and tension-free construction with caricatural and Manichean characters. Everything is overdone and overdone.
If the film addresses a natural threat, even the climate crisis, we did not fail to establish the easy parallel with the microscopic Coronavirus, inversely proportional to the size of a comet. The reversal is obvious. If the elites of fiction grossly deny the arrival of such a collision, an argument that is not very credible given its magnitude; real states and the mainstream media endorse and play massive pandemic propaganda that would be like a disaster movie. So what is the film about? Would the ruling elites be blinded and not see the real? But which one? Because the film never shows the bases of such a denial.
If the accusation of the ruling elites, the media and economic power is expected, it is above all far from being subtle. It was necessary to do the opposite, in a way, to give it a real subversive content, to make the characters believable and realistic, and to show their irrational and buffoonish side (even by forcing the line) in order to create a shift in the situations and their positions taken. There, she’s so outraged and disconnected that you can’t take her either at the ” serious nor even in a laughable or comical way.
A continuously scrolling “talk show”
One has the impression that in the White House, all the leaders are in a continuous scrolling “talk show” (like the film in its form) without worrying the least about the affairs of the country. All political and economic power relations have fallen by the wayside and satirical subversion is at the same time non-existent. Social media criticism is superficial. Only floats the figure of the Silicon Valley billionaire, Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), the creator of the technological company Bash Cellular (hybrid between Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg). Randall Mindy’s doubts about his technology are mocked by Peter Isherwell’s super-powered algorithms that can predict people’s deaths, and in Mindy’s case, by a ” It will be alone, completely alone “.
To this, the film does not play on any real dialectic in order to create tension in the viewer in the elements presented. It is the major defect of this production which agitates large scriptwriting strings without ever deepening its subject. We are far from another genre of the dramatic force of Network (1976) by Sidney Lumet or even Quiz Show (1994) by Robert Redford. Most of the characters are drawn in broad strokes, monolithic as if to say to the viewer: ” All this is not very serious “. The only reversal of situation is that of Mindy, in particular his affair with the television star, Brie Evantee: he is for a time co-opted by the system, disowns his colleagues, splits up from his family and agrees to do government propaganda before turn his jacket a second time with disconcerting ease where on the air, he howls next to the two presenters (including his mistress) while describing the comet melting on the Earth. The film never explains such reversals that take place in the blink of an eye. On the contrary, it would have been interesting if one of them really rocked.
A worm-eaten orchestra of good feelings: an inverted “happy ending”
don’t look up don’t avoid either the bluette between Kate, who has become a cashier in a convenience store, with Yule (Timothée Chalamet), a fashionable youngster, who has come with her comrades. Later, in a car, Yule declares his love publicly to Kate and offers her to get engaged, which she obviously accepts with a smile. All of this is hackneyed.
As in any good Hollywood movie that’s passably marshmallow, Randall returns home and asks his wife’s forgiveness, who accepts with a large heart as vast as a pool of grenadine syrup. The whole little group ends up around the table at the Mindy house. Since the comet arrives and crashes into Earth (the Bash mission failed), the diners agree to die unmoved while enjoying apple pie and talking about the quality of the coffee they drink regardless of the disaster. Unlikely situation. Randall utters a final sentence: When you think about it, we really had it all, didn’t we? Mindy had preferred to stay with her friends, having previously refused to join the president’s call to flee with her and a few billionaires in a clandestinely chartered spaceship equipped with cryogenic capsules. All of this smacks of the worm-eaten orchestra of good feelings and you don’t make a good film any more than you do a good novel with them. The “happy ending” is just reversed.
The end ” dystopian “leave them” bad guys almost unharmed during a sequence during the credits, where the President of the United States, exiting the spaceship on a planet thousands of years later, will be “ bitten » by a brontéroc, the only correct (and unrealistic) prediction of Peter Isherwell.
Ultimately, don’t look up is a satirical film without the sneering and jubilant shade of satire.
Yannick Rolandeau is a filmmaker and writer, author of three essays on cinema: The cinema of Woody Allen, Nouvelle vague, critical essay on a cinematographic myth, and Quentin Tarantino or the twilight of the image (the Harmattan). He has set up and runs a YouTube channel of analyzes and reviews of major films.