White Noise Review: Adam Driver’s Netflix Movie Epic Arrives Just In Time

When books are written about Netflix’s massive investment in prestigious cinema, the book by Noah Baumbach White noise could go down because the movie ended up killing the goose that spawned the golden budget. This doesn’t mean the streaming service will never again fund a director’s frivolous project — it hasn’t won a Best Picture Oscar yet, and, let’s just say, it won’t. must be the movie that won it — but it’s unlikely to ever do on this scale again. Irish more expensive, Yellow is more of a disaster, but for sheer arrogance you can’t beat an apocalyptic adaptation of a supposedly unshot literary classic, by a director known for its caustic domestic comedies, with a rumored budget of $140 million. We certainly won’t see the same again—not from Netflix, anyway.

You can also go out with a bang. Adapted from the beloved 1985 novel Don DeLillo, White noise is a gripping, uneven, disjointed film about 1980s America’s collective psychosis and a dry race for the apocalypse. It’s essentially three movies in one: a stylish satire of modern academia, consumerism, and family, followed by a Spielberg paranoid disaster epic. The final third twists itself into a nauseous, surreal noir reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ most puzzling things. If you had to guess which work Baumbach handles most successfully based on his previous work, you would almost certainly guess wrong.

Baumbach’s love for the source novel is evident. This is a faithful, if surprisingly fun, and repulsive adaptation. It just misses some of the novel’s rhythms, while the script, written by Baumbach himself, reverently elevates DeLillo’s superb dialogue and prose. However, despite the fan’s credentials, the director is an odd fit for the book. Baumbach specializes in interpersonal drama, such as Frances Ha or Marriage Story, written, performed, and shot in a naturalistic style. However, DeLillo’s book has classical, stylized, and metaphorical architecture, filled with big ideas, big facts, and solipsistic characters that talk back and forth.

Adam Driver, wearing his academic gown and dark glasses, chats with Don Cheadle in a colorful vintage canteen

Photo: Wilson Webb/Netflix

The story centers on Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), a professor at a pleasant anonymous central university who has pioneered the provocative field of “Hitler studies”. At work, Jack covers up his lack of a real scholarship (he doesn’t speak German) and engages in a spiraling intellectual debate with his friend Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle), who is thinking diversification from the Elvis Presley crash. At home, Jack humorously manages a noisy, argumentative mixed family with his wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig). The besieged couple competes to see which of them is more death-worried, but there seems to be something really wrong with Babette and an ominous cloud is gathering on the horizon – literally. An accident releases a toxic cloud known as the Airborne Toxic Event, and the Gladneys are engulfed in a wave of panic.

Everything about this material, except for the middle-class intellectual environment, pushed Baumbach out of his comfort zone. (It was also the first period piece he attempted, and the bright, daytime interpretation of the 1980s in costume design and production was one of White noisehis main joy.) He overcomes challenges in unexpected ways. It’s his most imaginative and visually dense film by a long chalk, and he’s deftly constructed a series of stunning settings: the opening lecture by Don Cheadle’s character Murray, Murray. , interspersed with archived car accident footage; an academic duel between Jack and Murray, loitering and persuading around a lecture hall as they weave the myths of Hitler and Elvis together; Jack’s truly spooky night terrors; and an on-stage confrontation between Jack and Babette, at the end of the film, when he makes her finally open up and confess her wrongs. The latter is brilliantly blocked and beautifully executed, especially by the suffering Gerwig.

Although the garish CGI train crash that led to the Airborne Toxic Event didn’t really work – it flatly turned a disaster into a reality that, in the book, is all the more ominous because it’s so far-fetched. and nebulous – what follows is an extraordinary, enduring sequence of repetitions of Spielberg’s masterpiece of collective madness, Close encounters of the third type. As it turns out, as a horror director working on a large scale, Baumbach has the goods. Scenes of traffic jams and carnage under a boiling sky have a terrifying force, while stopping at a deserted gas station has something of the horror revealed in Hitchcock’s film. Birds. Baumbach then shows he can combine action with comedy in a quaint station car chase that could easily have been taken from a Chevy Chase movie from that period. White noise is set. At times, Baumbach seemed to fit the pop culture DeLillo criticized more than DeLillo himself.

Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle chat in the aisles of a colorful 1980s supermarket

Photo: Wilson Webb/Netflix

It’s strange for Baumbach, who is usually so generous with his actors, yet the cast is squirming, enamored with the surreal grandeur of the director’s design and trying to find rhythm in the films. Collage dialogue from his book. Cheadle, joking and questioning, is the best in this strange world, making statements like, “She has important hair.” Driver has some great moments and stellar business pieces — watch as he slips his hand through his academic robes to push Jack’s stained glasses onto that gorgeous nose, with a a smirk — but sadly he was in the wrong place. At 39, he’s at least a decade younger than Jack, and not even the bloated belly and rough skin of middle age given to him by the make-up and makeup department can’t hide. get his necessary masculinity. You can’t buy a Driver as a thwarted scholar; his body doesn’t know what obstruction means. However, he is very funny. The driver’s intensity often puts his comic skills aside, so it’s fun to see an unlikely movie like White noise bring them to the forefront.

What irks DeLillo purists most about Baumbach’s films may be what others enjoy watching most: It’s enjoyable. It’s a messy movie that can’t find themes to understand DeLillo’s vision or the realities of his characters – especially in its bewildering final third, after The Events Matter. The aerial poison dissipates and Jack is haunted by Babette’s place in a conspiratorial potion. But it was done with wit and a contagious amusement. Baumbach swoops in to amuse and scare, often with success, and spruce up the screen with bright colors and movement. At the end, he performs a dance in the supermarket aisle that DeLillo and his pretentious characters imagine to be the modern American church. Is Baumbach still making a point or just interrupting? The latter, I suspect, and more power to him. He took Netflix’s money and ran away.

White noise Now available on Netflix.

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