REVIEW – “White Noise”

Based on Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name, White Noise follows Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) who is a professor of Hitler studies at The-College-on-the-Hill. On top of being a renowned professor, Jack is also proudly married to his wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) and fathers four children/step-children. However, the stability of his life and family is shaken by a chemical spill that releases an “Airborne Toxic Event,” which forces Jack to faces his own fear of mortality and death. If this seems like a lot.. it is! Noah Baumbach, who is mostly known for tackling films of the mumblecore genre, does his darndest to deliver a film that is as equally thoughtful and explorative with its heavy subject matter and themes as it is large in scale and scope.

This is the closest Baumbach has ever gotten to a big-budget movie, and it truly feels like Netflix spared no expense when it comes to delivering a true spectacle. Baumbach also surprisingly delivers a really impressive sense of scale here, as some of the set-pieces and moments of tension/action are genuinely exciting and frenetic. He also, maybe expectedly, comes to play in terms of the sincerity and drama of it all. On top of being his most elaborate and large-scale film to date, I don’t think Baumbach has ever tackled so many themes with such pure lunacy and density before. This is truly a film that never succumbs to make sure you’re on it’s level – you’re either with it or you’re not, and it won’t wait up for you to jump on-board.

At its worst, White Noise is a bit scatter-brained and bites off a little more than it can chew in terms of trying to adapt a beloved-novel as well as introduce its own ideas and themes into an established-narrative and scope. However, wherever White Noise may falter within its narrative and ambition with some small-misgivings – I still admire it for being such an audacious, wacky film with some truly insane narrative swerves that I never saw coming. Does this make for the most rewarding viewing experience for traditional movie-goers? No. But I still commend it for being completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and genuinely delivering on the moments that count most.

Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig are also in top-form here, delivering two of the best performances of their entire career – they both are having a ton of fun with their roles and weird styles, but find a lot of humanity underneath the absurdities. That humanity is one of the most interesting things about White Noise, considering it’s a film with so many big ideas and themes – it ends up being a genuinely tender tale of confronting the idea of death and mortality head-on, with the people you love most. This may not work for everyone, and I even questioned it a few times before the film cut to credits, but by the end I was pretty moved by the whole thing and undeniably was engaged and entertained for the entire running-time.


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