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White Noise at Marcus Point Cinema
December 10, 2022 @ 5:40 pm - December 15, 2022 @ 2:50 pm$5.28 – $13.72
Babette Gladney (Greta Gerwig), Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), and their three children scream while in their red station wagon. The youngest Wilder (Henry Moore) sits masked between Jack and Babette in the front seat looking amused.
As a follow-up to his septupuly Oscar-nominated Marriage Story (2019), Noah Baumbach has used approximately $80 million of the money Netflix seems to be hemorrhaging lately to do a “one for me” movie—a project that greatly expands his visual ambitions while addressing the only subject that’s a universal concern for our species burdened with sapience. We are going to die. Yes, you, the person reading this, will die someday. That fact and the various complications we create to avoid confronting it is what White Noise (2022) is more or less about. With such a lofty subject to motivate him, Baumbach has created something sprawling, messy and totally fascinating, his analogue to One From The Heart (1981) or Under The Silver Lake (2018).
Adapted from Don DeLillo’s ’80s satirical novel of the same name, White Noise follows Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), a college professor who has pioneered the field of “Hitler studies,” and his wife Babette (Greta Gerwig, in her first acting role since 2018). They’re accompanied by four children from various previous marriages (including Raffey Cassidy of Vox Lux who plays the eldest), as well as Jack’s friend and fellow professor Murray (Don Cheadle), who hopes to popularize an academic discipline centered on Elvis Presley similar to Jack’s “Hitler studies.”
The group navigates a constant Altmanesque cacophony of unending information, and naturally gravitates toward the biggest spectacle. It can be reasonably assumed that whatever commands the most attention is most important (Jack makes his living from the well of a historical spectacle that will never run dry, after all), while they’re all firmly entrenched in the certainty that whatever disasters are on TV are removed from anything that could happen to them. Of course they are proven wrong, and history intrudes on day-to-day life in the form of “The Airborne Toxic Event.” The exact nature of the danger is unclear, but the mere fact that danger is present is enough to disturb the routine.
The plot is somewhat of an exaggeration of themes Baumbach has explored for his whole career, namely the anxiety of trying to place yourself within society. He expands his palette past the character studies he’s made his name on, incorporating visual references to Brian De Palma’s films, to Jean-Luc Godard’s Week-end (1967) and Tout Va Bien (1972). Baumbach even casts Fassbinder regular Barbara Sukowa in a cameo toward the end of the film.
Consumerism at once creates distraction and meaning, and Baumbach takes care to include a corporate logo in the frame for most of the film’s running time. This ubiquity of branding culminates in an end-credits sequence scored by a new LCD Soundsystem track written especially for the movie. After all, once you accept you’re going to die, you might as well get on with your life.
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