"Death to 2020" on Netflix provides annual closure with a brilliant mix of comedy and truth

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SAEED ADYANI/NETFLIX

DEATH TO 2020 (L to R) LISA KUDROW as JEANETTA GRACE SUSAN in DEATH TO 2020 Cr. SAEED ADYANI/NETFLIX © 2020

Charlotte Gumpel, Staff Writer

Netflix announced the release date of Death to 2020 on December 21, 2020 along with a trailer featuring a star studded cast. Directed by Al Campbel and Alice Mathias, a slew of familiar Hollywood names filled the roster. Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Joe Keery, Leslie Jones and Kumail Nanjiani are among the cast. With writing from Charlie Brooker, known for his work on Black Mirror, Death to 2020 was announced with high expectations. 

The mockumentary visits a series of fake talking heads – Jackson as a harsh and pessimistic journalist, Milloti as a “soccer mom” radicalized online, Kudrow as an unofficial right-wing advisor, Grant as a stubborn English historian – discussing the key moments of 2020, from the pandemic to Black Lives Matter protests, impeachment and wildfires. Their discussions of the year are accompanied by news footage and stock footage, along with a witty narrator, Laurence Fishburne. All of the characters are given silly names, with Joe Keery as “Duke Goolies” (millennial) or Samson Kayo as “Pyrex Flask” (a scientist). 

The actors give their best to their ridiculous roles. In particular Milloti, whose performance as a suburban housewife starts out as a typical racist “Karen,” until very quickly her smiling words become more and more deranged. Kudrow as well deserves to be noted, as she cites a hypocritical and hyper-defensive right wing advisor. Her delivery is witty and realistic all while maintaining a certain level of aloofness. With the limited screen time she had, Kudrow dominated with her perfect composure and body language, as she dismisses allegations left and right with little to no remorse. Her character did not have much ground to work off of, but her performance is definitely among the best in the cast. Brooker and Mathias also latch onto the ever-reliable device of name calling. Rudy Giuliani is “Trump’s hunchbacked lab assistant,” and the president elect is “amiable phantom Joe Biden.” It is cheap and childish, but the jokes work nonetheless.

Some characters as a whole fell a little flat, particularly Grant’s character, historian “Tennyson Foss.” His performance was well put together, as expected, but the writing just felt like scraps of a script. They were almost like jokes that were too good to leave out, but with no place to go, o, “Tennyson Foss” was created. 

I went into Death to 2020 expecting a Black Mirror kind of atmosphere, hyper-realistic world with a mix of humor and truth. And that is exactly what I got. Yet, it is important to note that Death to 2020 comes nowhere near Black Mirrors excellence, especially in the writing department. Yes, the jokes are witty, satirical and perfect for a good laugh, but it barely scratches the surface. 

If you are looking for a casual and easy-to-watch movie, Death to 2020 is a great choice. Some words from the narrator even outsine the characters at points, as Fishburne lays on hilarious and backhanded insults in a monotone voice. The mockumentary is a good closure to such a tragic year, but it is most definitely not a stroke of genius.