White Noise

Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Distributed by: Netflix

Written by Taylor Baker


“White Noise” sees Adam Driver as Jack Gladney a family man, navigating the upper-crust culture of life as a college professor, a man insecure about his inability to speak German–despite being one of the foremost Hitler studies experts–who is plagued by a slew of insecurities. Babbette is played unfalteringly by Greta Gerwig, she’s a kindhearted mother and wife, plagued with forgetfulness and a small penchant for bald-faced lying. These two leads serve as anchors to cement Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name. The film is peripherally filled with talent, with supporting turns by Don Cheadle, Jodie Turner-Smith, André Benjamin, Bill Camp, Lars Eidinger, and more. Baumbach’s peculiar adaptation wonderfully homages Altman’s audio stylings of multiple characters talking over one another, Spielbergian looming horror (as “Nope” also did), and even the vestiges of Roland Emmerichs monumental disaster films; Baumbach repurposes his influences so wholeheartedly that to in any way reduce his film to the parts that influence it would be unfair.

One night a semi-truck happens to hit a train and as fate would have it a monumental and terrifying event takes place. As a possibly deadly and noxious cloud begins to form, dubbed The Airborne Toxic Event. The following morning police drive along the streets with bullhorns issuing orders for families to evacuate. And the Gladney’s though the very last of their block to do so, do evacuate. Specialists over the radio change their interpretation of the event continuously. One minute it’s safe, the next it’s deadly. This undefinable looming possibly deadly and noxious cloud is an obvious and at points humorous hit-you-over-the-head metaphor. But the cinematic way that Baumbach elicits its movement over a gas station, its relationship to a lightning storm, and the way that the very fear of it can capture the attention of a group of people is why “White Noise” isn’t simply reducible to the text on which it’s adapted. Though that text deserves an immense amount of credit.

Replete with a wonky chase sequence, a split diopter scene following a shoot out, and an undercurrent of self-aware humor make “White Noise” a cinematic feat and an exciting example of how a filmmaker can interpret the text and tell its story within the grammar of cinema, rather than relying and resorting to exposition and dialogue which we see so often. “White Noise” is a genre-shifting idiosyncratic riff on something that’s hung over all our heads and now like the characters in the movie we have to either live with it, die, or try to forget about it.

“White Noise” Trailer

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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