Combustible Celluloid Review - White Noise (2022), Noah Baumbach, based on a novel by Don DeLillo, Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle, Jodie Turner-Smith, Raffey Cassidy, Lars Eidinger, André Benjamin, Danny Wolohan, Sam Nivola, May Nivola
Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle, Jodie Turner-Smith, Raffey Cassidy, Lars Eidinger, André Benjamin, Danny Wolohan, Sam Nivola, May Nivola
Written by: Noah Baumbach, based on a novel by Don DeLillo
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
MPAA Rating: R for brief violence and language
Running Time: 136
Date: 11/25/2022
IMDB

White Noise (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Crash Register

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A far cry from Noah Baumbach's usual talky character pieces, this adaptation of Don DeLillo's classic novel White Noise is big, ambitious, bizarre, wildly uneven, sporadically funny, and weirdly worth seeing.

It's the 1980s, and Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) is a professor of Hitler studies, while his wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) gives exercise classes to seniors. They are both on their fourth marriages and have amassed several children. Their lives are chaotic but happy, especially when they visit their town's massive, shiny new supermarket.

Then, after a delivery truck crashes into a train and releases an "airborne toxic event," the family must evacuate, leading to a series of hectic adventures, as well as Jack's possible exposure to the deadly stuff. Returning home, Jack tries to get to the bottom of Babette's sporadic memory loss, linked to mysterious pills she has been taking on the sly.

Those familiar with the book (long considered "unfilmable") may have a leg up on others, especially since White Noise features long stretches of blocky chunks of artificial-sounding dialogue that careen up against one another, creating a cacophonous soundscape. But it also starts with a lecture by Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle) about the beauty of car crashes that is flat-out hilarious. (In one scene, the movie pays film-nerd homage to Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film Weekend, with its famous tracking shot full of stalled, ruined traffic.)

White Noise bounces back and forth between dialogue-heavy scenes — including a verbose back-and-forth lecture comparing Hitler to Elvis — to FX-laden sequences like a huge train wreck and a car chase scene. It seems to be saying a great deal, from the futility of the education system to the ridiculousness of consumerism and our over-reliance on medication, but nothing hits very hard; nothing hits home. And Baumbach tries like crazy to be a "visual" director here, with poetic camera movies or pinwheeling shots around a room.

But every so often, some odd combination of things feels just right, whether it be a sublime exchange between characters or a satisfying cut between shots. However, nothing is as totally wonderful as the end credits sequence: a musical number in a supermarket, with pastel colors popping and Andre 3000 from Outkast shimmying with a box of cookies. That alone is worth seeing twice.

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