My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer: Don’t Look Up (2021)

Astrid Swan and Nick Triani return with their film feature My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer. They discuss one of the most polarising films of recent times, Don't Look Up.

Astrid Swan and Nick Triani return with their film feature My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer. They discuss one of the most polarising films of recent times, Don't Look Up.

Nick Triani

Astrid

In 2022 we are back reviewing movies as a couple. This is after some years where we have mostly watched everything separately, gliding from one streaming service to another, binge-watching TV-series new and old, rarely expressing interest in the same thing at the same time. Don’t Look Up is a perfect film to return to writing about films. It is a star-studded satire produced by the biggest studio of them all, Netflix. It is a painful and funny exploration of where we are now. Where are we?

Don’t Look Up may have a sheen of off-hand satiric comedy about its main characters and the human obsession about optics, even during the gravest moments, but deep down it poses a concerned question: as humanity, how do we face planetary extinction and our own mortality? Leonardo DiCaprio’s semi-stuttering doctor of physics and Jennifer Lawrence’s doctoral student portray people who discover that the world is ending. Through their bafflement we watch how the rest of the world would rather ignore the approaching disaster– or turn it into profit (even if there is no one left on Earth to reap the rewards).

Don’t Look Up may have a sheen of off-hand satiric comedy about its main characters and the human obsession about optics, even during the gravest moments, but deep down it poses a concerned question

This movie comes with a row of the best actors in Hollywood and the lightness of writing ushered in by the era of streaming services and the fragmentation of narratives. What it doesn’t come with is any kind of aesthetic cinematic invention. I mean that there is hardly any storytelling via image making, or any other visual convention other than heavy editing. The worst features are the interspersed image collages of what appear as stock photos around the world. I guess they are supposedly there to reflect on our shared planetary time and its smallness and unawareness in comparison to the looming disaster. Instead, they feel trivialised. As if we could address the beauty of this planet in such compressed form. I know this is satire, but does everything really have to be a snippet? This film makes me want to watch slow nature documentaries and Kubrick’s 2001. It makes me hungry for cinema not as commentary but as wonder.

Nick



I don’t know much of Adam McKay’s previous work. There’s the script to the witty Ant Man from a few years back; the very admired Vice (that I’ve never watched) and The Big Short which I gave up watching after 10 minutes (it seemed dull as hell.) His other credits include Anchorman and Saturday Night Live and the hottest ticket in town right now–as executive producer of the excellent Succession. Despite his notable career, nothing could have prepared McKay for the initial critical rejection and then public adulation that has followed the release of Don’t Look Up. It’s a film everyone has wanted to have an opinion about. After watching Don’t Look Up I did start to wonder what all the fuss was about. Don’t Look Up perfectly illustrates the waning powers of critical opinion amongst the mainstream media; our critical consensus is nowadays far more open to influence from public scrutiny rather than journalistic largess. Those early reviews describing the film as being a Christmas Turkey look a little unfortunate now.

Still, I’m not sure that Don’t Look Up is a good film. It had some witty moments and it also had some poignancy. Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent as the scientist led astray by his unexpected fame. But most other characters were broad caricatures with little or no depth at all. So generally, I didn’t really relate to anybody in this film. It was the opposite of personal. Where Don’t Look Up scores quite well is showing us the ridiculousness of how we get our information (or should that be disinformation?). You could say depictions of the media (and social media) were over the top, but they really weren’t. We just take that level of click bait for granted nowadays, we are desensitised to everything and everyone. It doesn’t matter how disturbing, tragic, awful, criminal, disgusting, sentimental, funny or just plain misleading most of our daily interactions are, we just brush it all off and continue as normal. We are living through a constant car crash of emotions, where we often fail to emote. And although that mirror is well portrayed in Don’t Look Up, it often felt like this film wasn’t actually made for me.

It doesn’t matter how disturbing, tragic, awful, criminal, disgusting, sentimental, funny or just plain misleading most of our daily interactions are, we just brush it all off and continue as normal

 

Ultimately, I missed the essence of cinema in Don’t Look Up, or anything approaching special. Don’t Look Up stank of being a made-for-TV movie with a catalogue of environmental clichés and some star names with good intentions. I understand all the points it was making in its very unsubtle ways. Yes, I read progressive news sources. This is satire, but not very good satire. If the film isn’t cinematic or that funny, it doesn’t matter that the message is worthy does it? It still has to work as a living breathing piece of something, right? If Don’t Look Up reminded me of anything, it was the 1970’s disaster movie with some added jokes or a wacky star studded comedy akin to Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. I was ultimately left with the feeling of who is this for? Although it is a film about the big theme of our impending destruction, Don’t Look Up lacks an emotional core. The shallowness (and condescending knowing) of the whole exercise feels as instant and as disposable as the social media it so accurately lampoons.

 

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Article was written by

  • nick

    Editor at OQM. I’m also a co-founder and writer. I’m head of A+R at the record label Soliti.

  • Astrid Swan - One Quart

    I am a co-founder, editor and a writer at One Quart Magazine. I am also a songwriter and a performer. I am passionate about feminism, writing, equality, the future,...

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