White Noise is a lively, fearless and compelling film ‹ Literary Hub

Crackerjack by Noah Baumbach, fantastic adaptation by Don DeLillo White noise is one of the big surprises of the year. Not because Baumbach isn’t an excellent writer and director, but because DeLillo’s 1985 novel, a satire on the “endlessly twisted, religious underside of American consumerism,” is one of the great unfilmable books, a rhetorical playground for the most abstract, ridiculous endeavors these main topics to rage.

Yet Baumbach’s film is itself an effective parable, inventing its own visual, aural, and tonal language (while also featuring much of DeLillo’s prose) to match DeLillo’s exploration of how the human search for meaning is undertaken and thwarted by an increased reliance on material culture. .

One of the ways it does this is by packing as much as possible things as much as possible in the mise-en-scene; White noise is endlessly overcrowded, packed to the brim things. If you paused every frame of the movie to literally examine (or read or count) all the items in the background, you could spend a year squinting in front of the TV. It’s like one of those Dr. Castile soap labels. Bronner’s film – every big picture is clearly made up of endless little things, and it’s all an absurdist carnival of thoughts. IN White noise, the world is a great barrage of matter that overwhelms everything at every moment. Culture is one of “too much”; everything has gone too far, every product invented, every concept used. It is a useless, confused world, built in search of some meaning that still remains elusive.

The film, which retains the novel’s unintentional setting in the 80s, is about Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), a professor of Hitler studies who teaches at College-on-the-Hill, a stately institution in the American Midwest. By day he teaches students and confabulates with his colleagues, including his friend Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle), an entertainment professor who is developing the field of Elvis studies, and by night he takes care of his large family: his wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) ), and their four children and stepchildren (Denise, Heinrich, Steffie and Wilder). They are each other’s fourth marriage, and their children collect relics from past relationships. But life in their bustling house on the outskirts of a college town is comfortable, even though Babette seems to be on third-party medication for something Jack can’t figure out.

Life goes on, and Jack and Babette enjoy their days together and worry about the future moment when such bliss will end. No one inside White noise is good at “being present”—especially after a disaster called an “air toxic event.” A train collision causes a large, explosive chemical spill that releases a cloud of noxious gases over the area and everyone is ordered to evacuate, causing society to descend into apocalyptic, survivalist chaos. Suddenly, the future is uncertain in an inescapable way, and all the Gladneys can do is get out and try to get back to their normal lives.

Baumbach’s script is not intimidated by the multitude of thematic treatments that White noise drags around, packs everything neatly and patiently. He’s a smart and literate filmmaker with a long-standing interest in the pitfalls of over-intellectualism, and he’s proven very adept at interweaving the wackier allegories of DeLillo’s epic with the stunning, even terrifying reality his characters face without faltering in pace, tone, or direction.

He also directs some of the best performances of the year: as Jack, the once-confident patriarch amid an over-the-top and often silly culture, Driver is the best he’s ever been. Don Cheadle (the the most versatile actor working today, I’ll say that) pops up throughout the film with a sudden mole strike, appearing as a warped voice of wisdom, echoing affirmations of Jack’s worldview and reinforcing man’s addiction to materialism, then vanishes again.

Some of the best, funniest performances in the film come from Sam and May Nivola, who play Jack’s children, Heinrich and Steffie—two chatty, hyper-formal teenagers who are more clearly dealing with modern times than their father. They are detached from the painful anxieties that consume their parents, overcompetent and intemperate, almost robotic in their intellectual, unemotional engagements with the world. Among other things it contains, White noise there is room to wonder how the next generation will handle it all.

One of the film’s biggest surprises and cinematic triumphs is the film’s final sequence, which I won’t spoil, but I will say that it looks like it was cleverly designed to thwart a certain Netflix feature. I mention Netflix because it is the company that produced and distributed, White noise; the film premiered at the film festival and will be shown in select theaters on Christmas Day, concurrently with a digital release on the streaming service.

If you can, you should see it White noise on the big screen (I mean, look, you should see all on the big screen, but you absolutely cannot miss it White noise on the big screen); is visually vibrant and fascinating, an edgy and engaging film that wisely blends the hallmarks of 80s aesthetic culture (primary! colors!) with its more abstract, fatalistic meditations. It also features an original track from LCD Soundsystem (their first in many years), one that is its own perfect adaptation of concern and energy White noise.

Still, it’s a good idea to let go White noise at Christmas, a season of intense acquisition, consumption, and wear—attempting to quantify emotions into items and reflecting on the passage of time measured in the nearest bodies and the things they brought or left behind. But I want to make it clear White noise not a depressing film; he enriches in a way that his characters could only dream of, temporarily freeing himself from the burden of time and scarcity, in a knowing way and with a witty touch.

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