While watching Don’t Look Up, Netflix’s new disaster satire film from director Adam McKay, my mind recalled another piece of recent satire, although one in a different medium. Earlier this year comedian Bo Burnham released Inside, a sharply written and poignant special also on Netflix, that satisfyingly captures one’s experience through the hellscape of the pandemic that many can relate to.
One of the final tracks of Burnham’s 20 song odyssey is titled “That Funny Feeling,” a tune that seeks to describe a feeling of today that’s indescribable. A part of the song goes as follows: “Hey, what can you say? We were overdue, but it’ll be over soon, just wait. Ba-da-da, ba-da-da, ba-da-da-da-da-da.”
“That Funny Feeling” encapsulates the overwhelming feeling that our Earth is screaming. It’s screaming that something is wrong with humanity’s current path and that we need to change our collective tune as a species to survive. With a script by McKay and a story by David Sirota I’ll admit Don’t Look Up is nowhere near as thought-provoking or well-crafted as “That Funny Feeling” or other songs from Inside, but during a few moments, I felt the same indescribable feeling that that song evokes.
In Don’t Look Up, two scientists are screaming for humanity’s survival, but they’re having a hard time getting anyone to hear. Leonardo DiCaprio plays one of the scientists. Dr. Randall Mindy is a mild-mannered and anxious man who, due to DiCaprio’s energy, oftentimes feels like a tightly coiled up slinky just waiting to explode. The other scientist is Kate Dibiasky, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Kate discovers the reason for Earth’s possible impending doom – a planet killer comet that threatens to wipe out all humanity. Lawrence really sells the hopelessness and desperation her character feels as Kate and Randall try to get everyone from a presidential administration and the mass media to believe the oncoming danger.
With McKay’s and Sirota’s script and story respectively they try to funnel a lot of contemporary issues from attacks on scientific fact and research to media distraction, to even data exploitation and privacy. Because of their attempt to touch on all of these topics in some fashion Don’t Look Up ends up feeling extremely diluted. It’s like a chef trying to make an exciting twenty-flavor ice cream but the end result ends up tasting rather bland. In the end, you never get any in-depth time with either Randall or Kate or the issues of society the storytellers are trying to convey, making both the characters and arguments of the film feel one-note and basic.
In one of the verses of “That Funny Feeling” Burnham sings about “The quiet comprehending of the ending of it all.” Through flashes, Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up is able to touch on that familiar sensation that comes from recognizing humanity’s end if we don’t change our ways and what it feels like to be alive during this particular moment of COVID-19. However, even with solid performances from main cast members such as DiCaprio and Lawrence and secondary performers such as Timothée Chalamet and Rob Morgan you don’t need to rush to see Don’t Look Up. After viewing it, you’ll feel it doesn’t tell you anything you wouldn’t already know by just looking up from a screen and taking a second to comprehend what humanity is experiencing now.