December 2nd, 2022
MOVIE: WHITE NOISE
STARRING: ADAM DRIVER, GRETA GERWIG, DON CHEADLE, RAFFEY CASSIDY, JODIE TURNER-SMITH
DIRECTED BY: NOAH BAUMBACH
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
The title is White Noise for a purpose. That exact reasoning becomes evident after the first twenty minutes into Noah Baumbach’s newest film. The story is a lot of madness, about a family living in the 1970’s, grappling with their existence, and their everyday dealings of life. Sadly, it does not amount to much substance, where the ending of White Noise can only leave audiences to ponder what they just saw, grasping at trying to make sense of it. That’s certainly what I felt. White Noise has the attention span of a fly and the brain of a schizophrenic, which is certainly the point, but still fails to make an experience worth having. It’s by far Baumbach’s most conflicting and divisive films.
The family is made up of Jack Gladney (A completely different looking Adam Driver), his wife Babbette (Greta Gerwig), their child from another marriage Denise (Raffey Cassidy), son Heinrich (Sam Nivola), daughter Steffie (May Nivola), and youngest boy who is more or less just passed around the house. They live in a middle class home, where Jack is a professor of Nazi history at the local college, and Babbette helps teach exercise classes at nursing homes and other outreach programs. The main dilemma that arrives is a truck crashes into a train carrying oil, which spills all over the town, causing a toxic gas cloud above, forcing everyone into quarantine. It’s within this “universe of madness” that these various characters live, including Jack’s friend and fellow professor of cinema Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle), medical specialist Winnie Richards (Jodie Turner-Smith), and professor Eliot Lasher (Andre 3000) that we spend time with for over two-hours.
It may seem like my initial paragraph describing White Noise is vague and that’s because the dialogue is a never ending stream of consciousness. Conversations are constantly interrupted by other characters, a train of thought is broken, then picked up again, and then the plot veers into Babbette possibly having an affair with a man testing experimental drugs on her. As educated as one could be, to follow this sort of narrative perfectly seems near impossible, or as much as Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel allows. The best suggestion is to know the source material or to watch White Noise a second time. What is certain is that it’s a great departure for Baumbach from his previous work with Marriage Story. This is more along the lines of two of his other films Mistress America and Margot at the Wedding but even those have more clear throughlines. White Noise is too distracted for its own good.
Performance wise, it seems like everyone is committed, the looks from Driver and Gerwig are something to behold. They are all in on their characters, as Jack has a receding hairline, teaches a part of Germany’s history, but can’t speak German. Gerwig’s Babbette is aloof, often speaking of her various projects, but never connected with anyone. Now, I would also be foolish to not suggest watching White Noise because for others it’s wacky way might land. There is just a lack of emotions or life from these characters, obscure in their dialogue, and the way they converse. It often feels like the furthest thing from a Baumbach film and that’s quite possibly the point.
By the end White Noise left me dumbfounded. It’s writing inches closer to something like Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Only those movies had their angels. I’m not sure what Baumbach is doing. There’s a sense of dread in the narrative tone, a cold chill in each setting, where many conversations take place in a supermarket, or in the college cafeteria. I just know that watching White Noise again will be a top priority but for now it all feels like static.
WHITE NOISE IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS DECEMBER 2ND, 2022 AND WILL BE AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX DECEMBER 30TH, 2022.
Written by: Leo Brady