Eclectic filmmaker Noah Baumbach reunites with his Marriage Story star Adam Driver for the comedic drama White Noise from Netflix. The screenplay for the film was adapted from the 1985 novel of the same name by Don DeLillo. For trivia buffs, this is Baumbach’s first feature that is not based on an original story.
The film tells the story of Jack Gladney, his fourth wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig), and four ultramodern offspring navigating the rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism. When an industrial accident unleashes an “airborne toxic event,” a lethal black chemical cloud floats over their lives. The menacing cloud is a more urgent and visible version of the “white noise” engulfing the Gladneys-radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, ultrasonic appliances, and TV murmurings pulsing with life, yet suggesting something ominous.
I was a massive fan of Marriage Story when it hit theaters a few years back, so I was looking forward to what Driver and Baumbach would do for their next film. I want to inform potential viewers that White Noise isn’t exceptionally mainstream. Driver’s character is a professor of Hitler studies in the college town where the film takes place. Here’s the kicker, though, he doesn’t speak German.
Something about the character keeps him from being ordinary, even though he is insecure and far from the typical alpha male personality. He has built a significant reputation as an evil expert due to his research on mass and idolatry. This has enabled him to capitalize on his study. In Adam Driver’s case, it is embodied by an unusual amount of brilliance. Sporting dark glasses and a cape, he awakens an uncommon passion in his students.
I found more to love in the character of Murray, played by Don Cheadle. His character is a university professor, giving a class on the optimism buried under violence as a spectacle in the movies. According to him, it is easier to unravel the value of a car crash than the tangle of emotions behind any drama. While almost sabotaging himself and borderline, Baumbach offers a piece that opens up many possible paths, all of them far from realism and resembling an independent film.
I will say that perhaps I was just burnt out on screeners and should give White Noise another view to encompass all of the themes and Black humor fully.
White Noise is available to stream on Netflix this Friday, December 30th.
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