Caitlin Ariel ’24
On Christmas Day, as the suspense of gift-giving and stuffing one’s face with cookies winds down and exhaustion sinks in, it is a typical family tradition to end the day with a movie perfect for all ages. When clicking through those movie options this past Christmas—and in the months since—it was difficult for people to skip past the newly-released, star-studded film Don’t Look Up. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Ariana Grande, and other household names, it seems perfect for a movie night. However, despite the film being labeled as a comedy, the laughs it provokes in audiences in its early scenes are ultimately stifled by shocking turns of events that have led many to reevaluate their lifestyles.
The dark comedy follows Kate Diabiasky (Lawrence), an astronomy graduate student at Michigan State University, and her anxious professor Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) as they make a seemingly revolutionary discovery: a comet orbiting the solar system. However, this excitement immediately gives way to fear and panic as these two fairly low-level astronomers discover that the comet is on a direct collision course with Earth and set to hit the planet in about six months. Kate and Randall, accompanied by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination head (Rob Morgan), begin to try to warn mankind of the approaching comet, but an unexpected obstacle arises: no one seems to care. They are quickly dismissed by the approval-rating-obsessed President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her subservient son and Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill). They then appear on The Daily Rip, a cheerful morning show hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry), and watchers waste no time minimizing, mocking, and blatantly ignoring the astronomers’ findings, dismissing their warnings as the latest of many exaggerated doomsday proclamations.
Despite these challenges posed by 24-hour media, a president anxiety-stricken by midterm elections, and her obnoxious high-ranking son, Kate and Randall’s true enemy arises in the form of a tech billionaire (Mark Rylance). A scarily avoidant man and presidential donor, he decides to make it his mission to allow for the comet to hit Earth, stating that the minerals in the life-ending rock would improve the job market and, most importantly, put money in his pocket. He claims he will use his revolutionary technology to shrink the comet while still in orbit, so life will remain, and the economy will boom. With America now torn between safety and money, lines are drawn in the sand, and Kate and Randall’s job grows more difficult.
A science-fiction political satire that clearly mocks today’s climate crisis and dissects how our modern capitalist society and tech and media addiction could be humanity’s downfall, Don’t Look Up makes viewers take a step back and reflect on how they perceive their media as well as how humanity is failing to adequately respond to the climate crisis. From its star-filled cast, obvious references to modern life, and an Ariana Grande musical number, it is clear why the film has been watched for 152.29 million hours across the world thus far, smashed Netflix’s record most-viewed film in one week and been nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.
For those who have yet to see Don’t Look Up, the film is now streaming on Netflix.