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Small Details You Missed In Don't Look Up

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

"Don't Look Up" is a truly stellar satire of the social, political, and media complications that can unexpectedly arise at the end of the world. The film follows a pair of brainy university astronomers, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), as they accidentally discover a planet-killing comet on a direct collision course with Earth. After the two are basically blown off by the distracted and ratings-obsessed President Orlean (Meryl Streep) — along with her cynical, sycophantic administration – they have no choice but to turn to the public as they desperately try to warn people to demand action before it's too late.

The film, which is co-written and directed by Adam McKay, features an all-star cast of actors who fully embody their zany characters as they grapple with some wild, but alarmingly realistic, reactions to this doom-and-gloom news. Anyone who's even remotely familiar with current events and recent history will surely recognize some of the real-world elements McKay drew inspiration from for the script. However, there are also quite a few things in the film that require a particularly keen eye (or telescope) to spot. Let's take a closer look at some of the small details you might've missed in "Don't Look Up." Of course, don't look any further if you haven't watched the full film, as there are spoilers ahead.

The color of money

Few rooms have ever been as dutifully recreated for the screen as the Oval Office. This iconic centerpiece of the White House, and the U.S. federal government as a whole, is a mainstay of political cinema, and that's no exception in "Don't Look Up." Sure, it takes Randall, Kate, and NASA career official Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) far too long to actually get an audience with President Orlean, but once they do take a seat in the office, it's a familiar enough sight.

Only, there are some specific details scattered throughout the office that you might need to hit the pause button to catch. President Orlean, like many presidents before her, has clearly given her own decorative spin to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and her particular choices of ambiance are quite telling about her character. Most prominently, you might notice a greenish hue to the curtains and other accessories in the room, and this is a subtle nod to President Orlean's preoccupation with money.

Similarly, her library in those iconic built-ins is also self-aggrandizing. Instead of outfitting the space with some inspirational texts from the great minds of the world, she's stocked the shelves with her own book, titled "How to Manage Your Money Even When You Have None." With clues like this, it should be no surprise that when confronted with a potential cash grab, she opts to put literally all of humanity in danger for the sake of her own greed. Beyond her obsession with wealth, Orlean has also chosen to line the White House with the official portraits of presidents with controversial histories. She also has a photo of Dick Cheney on her desk. It makes total sense in the film world, since they probably run in the same political circles, but it's also a bit of a wink to McKay's own previous political dramedy, "Vice."

Don't Look Up tells a story with costumes

In addition to the mayhem that plays out via the dialogue and action, there's a story being told with the choice of costumes worn by the various characters in "Don't Look Up." Director Adam McKay decided that the theme of the story would be that the sensible lead characters are taking an unexpected trip through Hades, and indeed, one of the most standout selections by costume designer Susan Matheson accurately reflects that concept. President Orlean's fashion sense bounces between red, white, and blue, indicating her played-up patriotism throughout the story. And her chief of staff, who's also her son, carries a Birkin handbag as an indication of their family's wealth – a prop suggestion that hilariously came from Jonah Hill himself. Most tellingly, when our leads first meet her, she's cloaked in fiery red, indicating their descent into a hellish world of madness.

Audiences may also notice that both Randall and Kate endure something of a fashion overhaul themselves. The no-nonsense Kate, for instance, eventually puts away her casual sweaters and combat boots in favor of some more business-ready blouses and jackets in hopes of being taken more seriously — not that it makes any difference in the end, of course. But all the while, she sports a pair of rings that form a small constellation on her fingers as an homage to her true commitment to her work.

Meanwhile, after a lifetime spent observing far away galaxies, Randall becomes something of a star in his own right. After impressing the co-hosts of "The Rip" with his on-air work and freshened-up look, he becomes a mainstay of the screen scene, and his suits become a lot more refined and fitted as he makes way from one media appearance to the other. When he finally decides to give up the pointless limelight and head home to Michigan with the proverbial hat in hand, he's back to his unassuming outerwear and plaids while Kate returns to her own no-fuss knit sweater game.

A grim running theme

As you watch "Don't Look Up," keep an eye out for small references to a pretty grim concept — extinction. Dr. Mindy, Kate, and Dr. Oglethorpe might hold out hope for humanity to overcome their apocalyptic obstacle until the bitter end, but there are signs scattered throughout the film that they're all just as doomed as everyone else by the pointless bickering that ensues from their earnest presentation of science and facts.

For example, when Dr. Mindy and Kate first decide to turn to the media for help in spreading their message, they pass by someone dressed as a dinosaur passing out flyers in the street. You might also notice a polar bear with an umbrella precariously located in the liquor store Kate works at. Adam McKay wanted viewers to connect the comet with climate change, and visuals like this do a lot to hammer that home. These are just some of the visual nods to ultimate catastrophe sprinkled throughout the action, so keep your eyes peeled for these and other dark clues that can be found in the background.

Mark Rylance steals the show

Almost every actor in "Don't Look Up" goes through a bit of a physical transformation to become their characters, from Jennifer Lawrence's sharp bangs, red coif, and facial piercings to Leonardo DiCaprio's wild facial hair and Meryl Streep's coiled locks and cat-eye glasses. However, no one is quite as unrecognizable in their role as Mark Rylance is as cellular tech mogul Peter Isherwell.

Isherwell is an off-putting amalgamation of many figures from the tech industry's past and present, and costume designer Susan Matheson decided that since the character was poised to be someone who was anywhere between 40 and 80 years old, she wanted to maintain that ambiguity with fake teeth, hair, and everything else under the sun that would be available to a billionaire of his stature. He's also fully committed to his profession, as indicated by his choice of sweater during his big "Liif" presentation — it's a gray design that resembles an electronic switchboard. 

In addition to creating a disarming physical look for the part, Rylance's look and demeanor also manages to capture the hellish essence of the character, which was originally inspired by the mythological character Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx in Hades. If he wasn't shudder-inducing enough with his talent for predicting peoples' behaviors with the swipe of a hand, well, Rylance's disarmingly droll delivery of Isherwell's most loaded lines should do the trick.

A failed prediction

One of the funniest bits in "Don't Look Up" involves the accidental accuracy of Isherwell's algorithm machine. Sure, his company, Bash, totally fails at the guessing game when it comes to how well their drone machines will work at breaking apart a planet-killing comet, but one thing his machines do get exactly right is the fate of President Orlean, even several thousand years ahead of her end.

As on-point as that death prediction is, though, Isherwell does misread the fate of another character in the film: Dr. Mindy. During an argument over the Bash comet-busting bonanza, Isherwell cruelly tells Mindy that his formulas are so sophisticated that he's already determined from data points that the scientist will die alone. Indeed, Mindy's recent history might suggest Isherwell is right since he's left his wife, June (Melanie Lynskey), and children in favor of the barely caring TV personality Brie (Cate Blanchett). 

However, as with the dud drones, Isherwell has forgotten a major factor in his equation. Unlike Orlean, who goes right along with the predetermined trajectory that sees her abandon her son and the planet she's doomed to die — only to land in the mouth of a giant alien bird — Mindy actually cares about his family.

Don't look up ... look down

The title of "Don't Look Up" might refer to the final ridiculous controversy that befalls mankind before the comet rears its beautifully ugly head, but the phrase also becomes a bit ironic in the last few moments of the film. Once it's clear that their work trying to inform the public is for naught and Bash's ill-fated experiment is the last hope for humanity, Randall, Kate, and Dr. Oglethorpe come together with Yule (Timothee Chalamet) and Dr. Mindy's family in Michigan and turn off the news to enjoy one last supper together in peace before the world's explosive end.

Although they've spent most of their time together discussing the apocalypse ahead — apart from, of course, Kate's running obsession with that time a three-star general charged them for the White House's free snacks — they all finally decide to look down, literally and figuratively. During their final moments, instead of watching the sky like everyone else in the world, they keep their eyes lowered to look at each other and talk about everything from store-bought salmon to Mindy's obsession with home-ground coffee beans — basically anything to distract from the shaking that surrounds them. Despite months spent encouraging folks to look up, once they realize the futility of that fight, they finally turn away from the sky and embrace distraction, just like everyone else has been doing the whole time.