On the downside, “Don’t Look Up” keeps repeating itself. It tries to hook us over and over again by sketching a less-than-dramatic depiction of love and loss, but you keep writing it off as cliched in order to avoid disappointment. But then it keeps coming up, but you don’t care any more. It’s frustrating.
This is Leonardo DiCaprio and Sandra Bullock’s second collaborative film — he played a trio of lovesick seafarers in “The Beach” (2000) — and it starts off confidently enough, with a concise, jazzy backdrop that’s so strong, it sounds like its own soundtrack. But gradually, as the story of DiCaprio’s trip to Europe draws closer to its climax, the film diverges into its own rhythm. When I say the rhythms, I mean the choice of dialogue. Then, when the pacing starts to seem more repetitious than thrilling, I turn away to avoid paying attention to the unfortunate cliches strewn about.
This is a broader, grander and less intimate version of director Peter Chelsom’s 2011 indie “Lay the Favorite.” Following the route of a classic and focusing more on the personal than the romantic will leave you begging for the rainbow sherbet next time.
Ike (DiCaprio) has three friends and a boat to fly to. He has this one gal in San Francisco (Elisabeth Moss) who just can’t resist him, no matter how much he says he doesn’t want her. And then there’s Lexi (Bullock), a busybody who gets stuck riding a bike and notices the signs of Ike’s devotion to her. While Lexi wants to stay far away from this love tap, Ike has other ideas: The guy’s got to get his kicks.
In Paris, Ike attempts to try to change Lexi’s life, but encounters an ulterior motive: the sale of a supermarket he inherited from his father. Lexi will get so upset over the sale that she can’t wait to be out of Paris before Ike can track her down.
Is it worth chasing down any girl in Paris — particularly one who, because of his ex, will seem easily replaceable? Maybe not, but this is the woman who taught Ike to fly.
And when he arrives at Lexi’s house, he finds that she’s just a bit broken. He discovers that she’s been all over town, hanging out with other women, including a smitten young couple and an Icelandic tourist (Bella Heathcote, playing with utter confidence, as her sisters had always done).
If Ike and Lexi are going to get back together, someone has to earn it, and that someone is Britt (Erin Moriarty), a drunken American rock star. But unless Ike can convince Britt to take Lexi back for her sake, the end of the movie is always coming soon.
Sometimes, this kind of formulaic storytelling is not a bad thing. Like “A Beautiful Mind,” Chelsom’s film contains one gut-punch of a moment. And sometimes, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sandra Bullock are just so charming together, I can’t be mad when their romance is forced upon me.
But that makes this film almost too easy.