You know Leonardo DiCaprio has brilliant comic timing, right? It’s something rarely remarked upon in the press or on social media, but it’s been true since practically the beginning of his career. And it’s one of the primary reasons the first trailer for Adam McKay’s new movie, Don’t Look Up, is such a welcome delight.
To be sure, the upcoming comedy, which will be released on Netflix in time for Christmas, has plenty going for it beyond DiCaprio visibly reaching for the yucks. After all, this is a (dark) McKay comedy, and the first full-on one the now Oscar winning filmmaker has made since his pair of tragic dramedies based on real world horrors: the implosion of the housing market on Wall Street in The Big Short and the reign of Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice. Before those films, McKay was primarily known as the behind-the-camera partner-in-crime of Will Ferrell on films like Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers.
Additionally, the film marks Jennifer Lawrence’s first performance since 2019 and also sees her dabbling her toe back in the comedy realm where she’s thrived before, including in the dramedy that won her an Oscar, Silver Linings Playbook.
Yet the image that many viewers will take away from the teaser? It’s of Leonardo DiCaprio breathing heavily and failing to prevent a panic attack as he deals with the pitch black gallows humor of the movie’s premise: A pair of scientists have discovered a comet is about to eradicate all life on Earth and most Americans either don’t care or believe them. The fact that this idea was penned before the COVID-19 pandemic hit seems depressingly prescient.
So expect Don’t Look Up to maintain the sharpened elbows of McKay’s more recent true story riffs. Even so, it’ll certainly allow DiCaprio to stretch muscles we’ve only seen hinted at to memorable effect in recent work, including perhaps most notably his last film: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
With the exception of an early stint at the start of his career on television sitcoms, DiCaprio has gravitated time and again toward the dramatic and seriously harrowing. Sorrowful might even be the way to describe the fate of a variety of his protagonists, from Romeo + Juliet to his Oscar win in The Revenant, with all the doomed heroes he played in between via Titanic, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island (to name but a few). Yet the charismatic performer has undeniably shown a penchant for the type of pointed line reading, and the big physical gambles that on-screen belly laughs are made of.
Remember DiCaprio’s brilliantly awkward dance moves in The Wolf of Wall Street? Or how about the instant meme-worthy way he declared select individuals had captured both his curiosity and attention in Django Unchained? Then there’s the entire portion of Wall Street where he loses his motor functions at a golf club. Despite being known for his red-in-the face screaming scenes—and his, until recently, continual snubbing by the Academy Awards—there’s been a natural comedic talent left relatively untapped in DiCaprio’s portfolio. Some might even view the aforementioned Martin Scorsese and Tarantino joints as pseudo-dark comedies, but DiCaprio plays such unrepentant and cruel bastards in those movies that it’s impossible to not walk away and be rightfully despising those characters.
Yet a movie where we can laugh with, or at least at, one of his creations? Again, only after winning his Oscar in 2016 has the thespian seemed to let his proverbial hair down, first in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time and now in Don’t Look Up. There is, indeed, much to snicker about DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton in OUATIH, from the way he threatens to blow his own brains out during a drunken self-pity party in his trailer to how he’ll cry after a little girl tells him he really is a good actor. But at the end of the day, a film which plugs into the real-life horrors of the Sharon Tate murders can never be anything less than bittersweet.
So bring on a McKay laugher where DiCaprio can play one of the filmmakers’ many patented privileged white male douchebags with the fragility of a Ron Burgundy or Ricky Bobby! Let him and Lawrence improv like it’s bedtime at Brennan and Dale’s house in Step Brothers! Let these actors have fun. We certainly will.