WHITE NOISE

Review by

Victoria Alexander



Sitting through this made me hate movies. Torturous. A movie just strolling through the isles of an A&P would have been better than this.

There is a hallowed regard for writer-director Noah Baumbach and novelist Don DeLillo. Based on DeLillo’s novel, WHITE NOISE stars Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig, Baumbach’s current partner, muse, and collaborator.They met on the set of Baumbach's 2010 film GREENBERG while he was married to Jennifer Jason Leigh, who had just given birth to their son. But let’s get past that squirrelly timeline now that Baumbach and Gerwig have been christened a Hollywood Power Couple.

Their reign will be tested with this incomprehensible movie with all the major parts played by well-regarded actors looking intentionally offensive. Driver is now in the class of A-list actors that choose ugly characterizations. I call it the Marlon Brando Syndrome. What made beautiful Brando hate himself so much that he offered himself up as the public face representing the God of Gluttony?

Orson Welles was always heavy-set and finally surrendered to genetics. Brendan Fraser gave up the physical fight to stay MUMMY thin and has now had a career revival playing a morbidly-obese man in THE WHALE. Christian Bale savages his good looks in AMSTERDAM by overplaying his character’s physical limitations with relish.

Bale says he will continue working with David O. Russell who enjoys making his star sexually and physically unattractive. It’s exactly what Bale wants!

In WHITE NOISE, Driver is not only hair-challenged but unsightly flabby. To drive home the fact that Driver is being true to his character, Baumbach stages a scene with his shirt off.

Do we really want to see the People of Walmart starring in movies?

Perhaps other critics can dredge up reasons to praise WHITE NOISE. I hope they got a WHITE NOISE t-shirt for their efforts.

Jack Gladney (Driver) is a university professor in upstate New York who founded the department of Hitler Studies. He’s hailed as a Hitler scholar but he never bothered learning German. Considering his knowledge consists of only about the minutiae of Hitler’s life, he’s never read Hitler’s Table Talks.

“Obstacles do not exist to be surrendered to, but only to be broken.” Adolf Hitler

“Those who have no understanding of the political world around them have no right to criticize or complain.” Adolf Hitler

One of Jack’s colleagues wants to introduce a course on Elvis Presley.

Jack and his wife Babette (Gerwig) are both on their fourth marriage. The house is filled with his children Heinrich (Sam Nicola) and Steffie (May Nicola), her daughter Denise (Raffey Cassidy) and their 6-year-old son Wilder (Henry and Dean Moore).

Their daily suburban life is filmed in the real world with everyone talking over each other and only interested in their own wants.

Jack’s colleagues, played by Jodie Turner-Smith, André L. Benjamin, Sam Gold, and Don Cheadle, are all equally offensive.

So this is how Baumbach sees American college professors. He hates real people.

A highway grand accident causes a mysterious cloud to force every family within miles of the accident to flee only to be stalled at a huge pile-up of cars stranded in line. Somehow the family gets out of the line and goes to a shelter.

Meanwhile, through all this, Babette is secretly taking an unknown pill called Dylar. Denise finds the pills and demands Jack research what it is. Jack confronts Babette and she tells him she has been meeting a Mr. Gray (Lars Eidinger) in a motel who gives her the Dylar. She is having sex with Mr. Gray, but doesn’t enjoy it. Jack goes to the motel and shoots Mr. Gray. Coincidentally, Babette turns up for another foray with Mr. Gray and sees the mayhem. Together they haphazardly attempt to dispose of Mr. Gray’s body.

The only good thing about WHITE NOISE is psychonaut Mr. Gray.

The key points – the toxic event and the Dylar - are never resolved. Through all this, Jack fears death but goes supermarket shopping. Apparently there is a subtext regarding consumerism and product placement. Has Baumbach ever gone food shopping? He finds the American love of consumerism a signpost to the end of culture. The dance sequence at the end is set in the grocery isles.

Thankfully, Driver does not sing (maybe it was filmed to make the star happy and will be added in the DVD bonus special features). Baumbach’s aim is to give actors the chance to play real people. Baumbach’s muse, Gerwig, has nothing to say and her vocal delivery is one tone. Gerwig has no complimentary close-ups. She does a lot of standing around.

Will the Power Couple continue? After Gerwig’s dreadful LITTLE WOMEN (I know I am in a minority here), I expect her next highly-anticipated BARBIE to be well-reviewed but in no way a pronounced masterwork.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if BARBIE was Gerwig’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE?

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Personal email: victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com