“Don’t Look Up” on Netflix: a parody, really?

Don’t Look Up ***

by Adam McKay

American film, 2:22, on Netflix

A planetary success echoing a planetary threat. So we could sum up Don’t Look Up, this apocalyptic satire that has become “the” film of the moment. And this, only two weeks after its release. Featuring two researchers trying to alert the public to the imminent fall of a comet on Earth, Adam McKay’s fiction is Netflix’s most viewed in no less than 94 countries.

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How to explain such a success? By its starry cast: Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ariana Grande… more intergenerational, we don’t do. By its tone: this is a comedy assuming its share of grotesque, even buffoonery. Unifying, of course! Finally, last but not leastthis comet is an obvious metaphor for the climate change ; environmental activists have understood this and communicate massively on social networks around the hashtag #DontLookUp. An ideal cocktail for those looking for a world triumph.

mirror of the time

That’s not all. The success of the film is also due to the way in which it makes people talk about it as it destabilizes. Because here, the burlesque mixes with the caustic. We laugh, but yellow. What seems caricatural at first sight is, ultimately, not so much. And for good reason: we follow two researchers who come up against denial, misinformation, the sarcasm of politicians and talk show hosts with, in the background, a public opinion fed on conspiracy. How not to see there a mirror of the time?

That, in particular, of our short-term vision. The President of the United States thinks only of exploiting the discovery of astronomers in view of the next elections, the TV hosts – their eyes riveted on the ratings – are looking for the buzz, as for the magnate of new technologies presenting himself as “savior of humanity” (a tasty mix of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg), he is only interested in the profits to be drawn from the collision to come.

An excessive film that hits the mark

Some regret a plot that is too easy, characters that are too whole, positions that are too binary. Clearly, an overly simplistic message. Still others criticize Adam McKay for renewing the Manichaeism he intends to denounce by opposing enlightened consciences to the camp of evil. So many well-founded criticisms.

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Except that it is precisely this excess that confuses: we believe we are watching a crazy farce and, on many points, it is our lost society that is depicted here. Hence this paradox: Don’t Look Up is excessively excessive and yet hits the mark. Some will come out of it even more overwhelmed. But others, perhaps, convinced that there is a lot to reinvent and that it starts now.



Adam McKay is the author of several notable feature films in recent years, including The Big Short in 2015 in which he dealt in a very committed and very accessible way with the beginnings of the 2008 financial crisis. We owe him, three years later, Vice, a vitriolic biopic of Vice President Dick Cheney. Oscar winner, the director is now one of the big names in American cinema.

“Don’t Look Up” on Netflix: a parody, really?