The Royale with Cheese Movie Club: Don’t Look Up

For the uninitiated, the Royale with Cheese Movie Club is a list of films that, for one reason or another, I finally watched after it seems everyone else in the world has seen them.

Yesterday, I was able to enter a new tally into the Club by finally watching the film everybody has an opinion on, the Netflix film Don’t Look Up.

So I watched the film. It’s advertised as a comedy. Um … well … the subject matter isn’t comedic. It’s pretty fucking scary. It’s more like a disaster film, like The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno, only nobody gets saved at the end. Spoiler alert.

It also shows the problem of getting information out to the public in this age of social media and interconnectivity, where the truth has to be wrapped in memes and viral videos just for anyone to even notice it. Again, another spoiler alert.

And while the main protagonists – Leonardo DiCaprio as an astronomy professor and Jennifer Lawrence as his graduate student, who discovers a comet that’s on a collision course with Earth – are complicated, believable characters, the rest of the supporting cast are played as one-dimensional tropes. Meryl Streep as the President of the United States, essentially acting as a female Trumpian leader, with Jonah Hill as her son / Secretary of State. So he’s essentially either the male Ivanka, or the male Donald Trump Jr.

Mark Rylance also chews lots of scenery as an Elon Musk / Steve Jobs plutocrat who wants to mine the comet’s rocky contents for rare minerals to power his cell phones; and whatever scenery doesn’t get chewed up by him is gnawed to death by Cate Blanchett, who portrays a buxom bleached-blonde morning show broadcaster – and I do mean “broad” caster – who apparently operates throughout the film on several different levels of horny.

But the thing about this film … it’s tough to watch. You don’t get a deus ex machina ending where everyone survives. There are no microbes that kill off the Martians before they take over the Earth. This isn’t just Jack going down with the Titanic, it’s Jack and Rose and everybody on Earth going down with the Titanic. And that’s rather emotional. And painful. And scary.

Listen, I get it. This film isn’t just about a comet potentially hitting and destroying Earth. This is an allegory about climate change. If we let the Earth warm up an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius, all these snowstorms and tornadoes and wildfires and droughts will be the rule, rather than the exception. Unfortunately, everybody can scream and yell and gnash their teeth and stomp their feet, and it still won’t change the world.

Or maybe the comet hitting Earth is an allegory for COVID-19 hitting Earth. The people that do believe in COVID and that it can be stopped with vaccines and masks are being shouted down and denied by those who would rather follow charlatans and demagogues, then ask for prayer circles on social media when their unvaccinated loved one is intubated for the final days of life.

Is Don’t Look Up a good film? Yeah. Is it an uncomfortable film? Very. Very uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s supposed to be that way.

Spoiler alert – there are TWO end credits scenes. And they’re probably the only true “comedic” pieces in the entire movie.