White Noise (Movie Review)


The Film


A family deal with the mundanity of day to day life before the struggles of an airborne phenomena create even more chaos.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Writer-director Noah Baumbach casts two of his favorite actors, in this case wife Greta Gerwig and buddy Adam Driver in another film that ostensibly airs out domestic issues. The title refers to the broad-spectrum noise that accompanies a white screen when an old television loses its picture which happens often in background scenes. Set in a small 1980s Ohio town where the local A&P supermarket serves as a shrine to consumerism, Professor Jack Gladney (Driver) teaches his self-created and popular “Hitler” studies while his fourth wife Babette, a senior citizen mobility trainer, tries to manage a blended family—Jack’s children from two of his previous marriages, Heinrich (Sam Nivola) and Steffie (May Nivola), Babette’s daughter Denise (Raffey Cassidy) from a previous marriage, and Wilder (Harry and Dean Moore) the one they had together.

Both Jack and Babette harbor morbid fears of dying and she has secretly been taking Dylar, an experimental drug, to help her with anxiety. An “airborne toxic event” is triggered when a gasoline truck collides with a train carrying cars loaded with hazardous chemicals. A huge black cloud of waste materials suddenly hovers over the town. The Gladney family along with everyone else are forced to evacuate into a massive traffic jam. Jack gets exposed to the toxic cloud while refilling his station wagon’s gas tank before he, his wife, and their children get forced to quarantine in an abandoned summer camp. They eventually leave the camp but Jack now lives in constant fear that his exposure to chemicals will shorten his life span.

  • May Nivola, Henry Moore, Greta Gerwig, Dean Moore, Adam Driver, Raffey Cassidy, Heinrich, and Sam Nivola in White Noise (2022)
  • White Noise (2022)
  • White Noise (2022)
  • White Noise (2022)
  • White Noise (2022)
  • Adam Driver in White Noise (2022)
  • Don Cheadle and Adam Driver in White Noise (2022)
  • May Nivola, Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver, Raffey Cassidy, and Sam Nivola in White Noise (2022)
  • White Noise (2022)
  • Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver, and Don Cheadle in White Noise (2022)
  • Greta Gerwig and Adam Driver in White Noise (2022)
  • Greta Gerwig and Adam Driver in White Noise (2022)
  • White Noise (2022)
  • White Noise (2022)

When the Gladneys finally return home, Babette is having anxiety issues and confesses to Jack that a “Mr. Gray” (Lars Eidinger) has illegally supplied her with Dylar in exchange for sex. An angry Jack goes on a mission to take out Mr. Gray with a pistol that Professor Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle), a fellow faculty member who teaches American culture at “The College on the Hill,” had given him for protection during the mass evacuation.

Based on Don DiLillo’s award-winning novel of the same name, Baumbach delivers a provocative and relatively faithful cinematic adaptation that addresses larger life issues like human mortality, anxiety disorders, illicit drug use, infidelity, dangerous chemical spills,  academia, and religion, as seen through the eyes of a couple whose marriage is in jeopardy. Yet, as serious as these subjects are, Baumbach also gives viewers some well-needed respite in scenes like the one where Gladney and Siskind present their competing takes on Elvis and Hitler’s Oedipal-like relationships with their mothers in front of a group of applauding students.

What stands out in this frequently absurdist dramedy is how well Gerwig and Driver play off each other as an actual married couple. Kudos to Cassidy’s perceptive Denise and Eidinger’s sleazy drug dealer who engenders instant dislike. But this is an uneven film with a pace that slows considerably in its second half when the storyline careens from one improbable scene to the next. If you liked Baumbach’s previous comedies, this one has also has plenty of offbeat moments that will keep you on your toes. But having seen nearly all of his filmography, I can assure you that Baumbach cinema is definitely an acquired taste. For the curious viewers out there, this is one of those “try it you might like it” films that receives a qualified recommendation.

White Noise is currently streaming on Netflix

  • Rating Certificate: R (for brief violence and language)
  • Studios & Distributors: NBGG Pictures | Heyday Films | A24 | Netflix
  • Country: USA | UK
  • Language: English
  • Run Time: 136 Mins.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Director: Noah Baumbach
  • Written By: Noah Baumbach
  • Release Date: 30 December 2022

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A family deal with the mundanity of day to day life before the struggles of an airborne phenomena create even more chaos. White Noise (Movie Review)