To throw: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep
Director: Adam mckay
Evaluation: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
The end of the world is certainly not a subject of joke but in the stars Do not seek, writer-director Adam McKay sees the fun side of impending disaster without ever losing sight of the grim reality of humanity’s indifference to threats to the planet.
With a cast to die for (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, Mark Rylance and, in addition, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep), Do not seek, on Netflix, press the right buttons, don’t fire any punches, and land quite a few sharp punches on the target.
In the film’s sights, power-hungry politicians, corporate czars and co-opted scientists peddle their convenient illusions to a cradled and manipulated crowd through news cycles aimed at achieving collective complacency and complicity. At first glance, the tone of the film vacillates a little, oscillating between the subtle and the precise, the superficial and the eccentric. It’s clearly part of the narrative design. What holds Do not seek together is the witty, hard-hitting heart of McKay’s script.
In the context of a pandemic that refuses to move away and an increasingly severe global warming scenario, the points raised by the scathing satire are still relevant and urgent. For those who have turned brushing uncomfortable truths under the rug into an industry, McKay’s performance style may seem somewhat breathless and overly alarmist, but nothing the film puts on the table can be dismissed as the fruit of a feverish imagination fleeing from the facts on the ground.
Based on a story attributed to David Sirota, editor of Jacobin and Bernie Sanders’ speechwriter for the 2020 presidential campaign, McKay’s spiky, animated film pokes fun at inept and selfish politicians, stupid climate change deniers. , self-centered and odds-obsessed with profit-seeking TV hosts and billionaires who believe the world should be accountable to them for its existence.
Do not seek also fires a salvo at the movie industry. A director who has a wonderfully bloated disaster actor titled Utter devastation lined up for release grandly admits in a TV interview that this is a “popcorn movie.” He views this label as a badge of honor, which, of course, is quite understandable given the environment in which he and his ilk work and the constituency they serve.
People are too distracted, too self-absorbed, or too stupid to read the writing on the wall, ask the right questions, and take corrective action when necessary. A recipe for “total devastation”. That’s what Do not seek takes hits at. At one end of the spectrum are the realists who recognize where the world is headed. At the other is the ‘Do not seek‘and’ all is well ‘camp. In a simplistic but very timely manner, Do not seek captures the times we live in.
Michigan State University astronomy student Kate Diabisky (Jennifer Lawrence), while working on a research paper, stumbles upon the existence of a comet “the size of Mount Everest.” It is rushing towards Earth and, as frenzied calculations reveal, is expected to impact in six months and 14 days with “the power of a billion bombs from Hiroshima.”
Accompanied by a NASA official, Dr Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), Kate and her teacher, Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), decide to warn the US president and the public that Comet Diabisky – she bears the name of Kate – could end all life on the planet. They are greeted with apathy, skepticism and denial, first in that order, then all grouped together.
Trump-style president Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) is in the midst of a political crisis over a Supreme Court appointment. She and her son, Chief of Staff Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill), keep Kate and Randall waiting for seven hours before they are fired. The next day, the president gives the astronomers 20 minutes to speak. The administration pooped their warning.
With no other choice, the professor, quickly dubbed “America’s sexiest scientist,” and the angry doctoral student appear in a morning TV show hosted by Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) ) to make their point and shake the world out of their amazement.
For the presenters, Kate and Randall are just another pair of guests, just another story, on their show. They’re far more excited about the breakup of a popstar (Ariana Grande in a cameo), who’s in the studio talking about her life and work, with her boyfriend (Scott Mescudi) than the fear that the end of the world could be near.
No wonder the two astronomers find themselves banging their heads against a wall. Kate is livid although, ironically, she is convinced that the people responsible for the grim situation “aren’t even smart enough to be as evil as you attribute to them.” Back home in Michigan, she begins a relationship with Yule (Chalamet), who shares her worldview despite her seemingly conservative religious upbringing.
Randall has to reckon with the wiles and weight of tech entrepreneur and founder of Janie Orlean, Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance, absolutely formidable). Determined to turn adversity into advantage, the billionaire takes control of the American effort to ward off the danger posed by the comet. Reduced to a mere spectator, Randall is driven into personal indiscretions.
Randall’s problems represent a crisis of individual conscience, the comet heading towards Earth denotes climate change, and Kate’s enthusiastic idealism symbolizes a very, very thin glimmer of hope. The composite image which Do not seek evokes is, of course, dark.
DiCaprio and Lawrence are a pleasure to watch as they lead the charge with Blanchett and Streep providing the icing on the cake. It is a wonder that the actors and their director seem to have so much fun painting a dark and disturbing portrait. Juxtapose the sublime and the trivial, the warning and the deadpan, the shiny and the gray to drive the point home, Do not seek is watchable all the way.