Don’t look for Netflix and Adam McKay


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Photo: NIKO TAVERNISE / NETFLIX

There’s a scene in Adam McKay’s Boyfriend and Cops ride in 2010 The other guys it involves Samuel L. Jackson, the Rock, a tall building and a perfect display of the Foo Fighters song “My Hero”, and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. But if I had to point out a time in McKay’s career where his approach to acting and my ability to appreciate his work as a director began to diverge, it would be towards the end of this film, when a streak about Bailouts and the Boyfriend. capitalism plays on the end credits. This information was not presented out of nowhere – the villain of The other guys is a Bernie Madoff-style financier played by Steve Coogan who tries to get away with millions of dollars from the NYPD pension fund to cover more financial hogwash. But it was added to an otherwise perfectly silly movie, of how an enterprising parent might try to get their kids to eat veggies by stuffing mashed carrots into mac and cheese. It is possible to make funny movies that are so urgent or out of scabrous anger. The problem was, McKay seemed to find entertainment and real-world issues to be fundamentally separate, deploying one in the hope of having his eyes on the other. He did Presenter 2: The Legend Continues a few years later and then moved on to the types of movies that might be deemed more important, if you accept the underlying assumption that comedies basically aren’t.

God knows there is nothing unreasonable about McKay’s rage, which he has since directed at the banks, again, in The big court; to the Republican Party and the American Political Establishment in Vice; and the government’s inaction on climate change in its new film Do not seek. For McKay, however, that rage seems incompatible with the comedies he nonetheless feels compelled to keep making. Misanthropy in itself is not a barrier to doing great work – Idiocracy and Dr Strangelove, both plagued, are obvious touchstones for Do not seek, a dark comedy about two Midwestern astronomers who discover a comet with the potential to cause an extinction-level event, then struggle to convince anyone to take the situation seriously. But McKay’s films aren’t particularly sharp in their satire and, over time, have increasingly settled into their preferred form of harangue. He seems to believe that people need laughs and famous faces to get them to think about more pressing issues, and he hates them for it. And yet, it’s hard to think of who, exactly, is going to need to make changes to the way they live their lives in Do not seek, an allegory of climate change that has acquired accidental relevance to COVID-19, but it doesn’t really end up being much, beyond what humanity fears.

Do not seek hands down two of the world’s most famous actors. Jennifer Lawrence, back from a two-year hiatus, stars as Michigan State punk PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky, while Leonardo DiCaprio is Dr. Randall Mindy, an unpretentious teacher, husband and father. On a standard night with the telescope, Kate spots an anomaly in the sky, and her initial excitement at discovering a new comet gives way to hesitation, then panic when Randall, doing the math, turns to realizes that the object will collide with Earth in six and a half months. With the help of Dr Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, they are brought in to speak to President Orleans, who is played by a smiling, shoddy Meryl Streep as an unholy combination of Sarah Palin. and Donald Trump, and who’s too busy handling a Supreme Court nominee scandal to do anything about the possible apocalypse, but kicked it off. So Kate and Randall become whistleblowers, with a confusing morning talk show hosted by Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry as the platform of choice. They are almost preempted by the news of a celebrity breakup. Kate’s explosion over it turns into a meme of anger, as Randall becomes an unlikely viral idol, and so the story creeps into the daily grind.

It’s not a sharp gimmick, but McKay, who wrote the screenplay based on a story idea from journalist David Sirota, just doesn’t care enough about popular culture or social media to effectively pitch it. Not that the movie convincingly digs into the things it supposedly would is invested in. Do not seek wants to paint our inaction on climate change as the result of denial and being distracted by silly things like, say, streaming a movie on Netflix. But climate change is not a comet is heading our way in less than a year – a lousy and misguided metaphor for the current situation. Climate change is a slow-motion disaster brought on by generations of industrialized existence, and to deal with it we must collectively see ourselves as a species and act on behalf of lives beyond our own, in terms of the future. and on the scale of the entire planet. And we’ve never been good at it, which McKay should appreciate, given that his own film fails to consider the looming catastrophe of the world outside of the US lens. Do not seek can cut flashes of B-roll showing the rest of the world, but this world is seriously shown that America failed to save, a heavy act of arrogance that misses the opportunity to engage with how long it has been since this country led the way.

In its final act, Do not seek begins to treat his characters like characters, and it’s a much better movie for him – to actually allow that there are aspects of human existence that are worth preserving, and to make room for the smallest bit of tenderness. Melanie Lynskey, as Randall’s wife, does much of this work in a smaller role, as does the surprisingly gentle Timothée Chalamet as evangelical burnout. But it’s really only towards the end that Do not seek allows himself to be about the frustration and fear that comes with not having answers, and the fear of suspecting that no one else will either. It’s a feeling that’s more thoughtful and vulnerable than the burgeoning anger that marks the first two-thirds of the film. It might make you wonder what McKay would think Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, the film by Romanian director Radu Jude released a few months ago. He is much sharper in his confrontations and darker in his exasperation at the insanity of a society on the brink, all without standing outside of the community he portrays and looking in (and outwardly). low). Corn Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, a film with subtitles and without big movie stars, will never attract audiences Do not seek will be. McKay may be full of bluster, but that, at least, he’s right.

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