Netflix has just released a new star-studded dark comedy that sends up the current times in which we live. The film is allegorical, particularly of the Trump era.
The story begins with a graduate student (Jennifer Lawrence) who discovers that a 10 km wide comet is headed straight for the Earth and will collide with it in just over six months, destroying the planet. Along with her advisor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a top government scientist (Rob Morgan) they try to alert the Trump-like president (Meryl Streep) but she, along with her idiot son (Jonah Hill, no prizes for guessing who he is based on) who is her chief-of-staff, does not take the threat seriously enough and instead worries more about her poll numbers and how to use the news to her political advantage. The news media represented the form of a happy-talk TV show with co-anchors (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) also make light of the situation.
The insidious role of social media is also parodied with comet denialists, egged on by the president and her son, charging that the whole thing is a hoax and adopting the slogan ‘Don’t Look Up!’. The billionaire head of a social media conglomerate (Mark Rylance) is portrayed as a greedy, soft-spoken, sociopath with grandiose space and AI ambitions, who is a big donor to the president and can command her to do his will. He is clearly a composite of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos, someone who sees a money-making opportunity in the comet.
The comet is clearly meant as a surrogate for real crises like the pandemic and climate change, except that the window for action is much shorter and more definite, and how difficult it is to get people to take crises seriously enough to take the actions needed.
I read this review that criticizes the film for being so one-sided in the way it makes fun of the denialists and their enablers that it will never persuade those on the other side to change their minds. I think it is naive to think that any film will be able to do that. I think we are too deep into our separate news and social bubbles to react thoughtfully to any film, however well-made, that makes the case for the other side.
This is a farce that one side of the political spectrum will find funny and the other side will simply hate or, more likely, will not watch.
Here’s the trailer.