December 8, 2022

SCREEN | Noah Baumbach Hears 'White Noise' x WFF 2022

"The supermarket is a waiting place. It recharges us spiritually."
Adam Driver Greta Gerwig Raffey Cassidy Noah Baumbach | White Noise Netflix
Whistler Film Festival
Dramatist Noah Baumbach adapts author Don DeLillo's thought to be unfilmable but quintessential 1985 post-modern novel White Noise for the screen as an absurdist dystopian black comedy spectacle. It's an ambitiously exhilarating but scattered meditation on the dense source material foreshadowing America's growing anxieties surrounding death.

Starring frequent collaborators, Adam Driver (clearly too young and fit for the part) and Greta Gerwig (Baumbach's real-life partner), as a loving married couple in a blended family living happily in a bucolic Ohio college town, he's a schlubby professor of "Hitler Studies" and she's an energetic but pill-popping aerobics instructor. Baumbach dives into an extremely specific sense of quirky surrealism referencing imagery of Nazis, car crashes, supermarkets, and other 1980s period iconography with strong Spielbergian allusions.

Don Cheadle and Raffey Cassidy co-star as Driver's Elvis-loving colleague and Gerwig's inquisitive teenage daughter from a previous marriage. They are among many very performers in offbeat roles without much initial context. When an "airborne toxic event" upends their lives, the family sets off on a strangely paranoid journey full of weird existential detours that build an overall mood of cheerful dread.

Baumbach's inspired adaptation of White Noise is a thrilling but scatological experience. By far his most visually and narratively audacious film yet, its dizzying sense of the American psyché circa the mid-'80s provides a strong but messy sense of literary déjà vu. The surreal film's biggest flaw is the manic literary material explored is so inherently meant for the page. Full of spectacle and stunning period production design, it's an apocalyptic satire of catastrophic man-made disasters obsessed with the looming prospect of death and the search for an easy pill-form cure that does not exist.

White Noise screened as the opening film of the 2022 Whistler Film Festival. It also screens at the VIFF Centre and will be available to stream on Netflix starting December 30th.

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