3/10 From one of the most pretentious writer/directors in Hollywood, Noah Baumbach, comes his latest movie, an adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Don DeLillo. To be fair, Baumbach’s last film, “Marriage Story” (9.5/10) was his masterpiece and in my humble opinion, the best film of 2019. However, “Marriage Story” is the exception in Baumbach’s career, not the norm. DeLillo’s “White Noise” has widely been regarded as one of those novels that are “unfilmable” and that wouldn’t translate to the big screen. “Dune”, “Watchmen” and “Foundation” have overcome the same label but other novels such as Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”, Samuel R. Delany’s “Dhalgren” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” have yet to create any kind of cinematic adaptation. I remember watching/reviewing Denzel Washington’s “Fences” which was based off of a stage play and despite the incredible acting and it overall being a solid film (7/10), the biggest problem with it was that it felt like a stage play, as opposed to feeling cinematic; not needing to be seen on a big screen. If a novel or stage play doesn’t feel cinematic or doesn’t improve in any meaningful way once translated, then there really is no need for adaptation and the source material should remain in its original form. The biggest problem with “White Noise” is that it doesn’t translate well to the big (or small) screen. While I haven’t read the novel, there is a reason it has been dubbed “unfilmable” and these dense, weighty issues don’t translate well at all. I could tell just from watching that without the luxury of going deeper into detail, like a novel can, so much gets lost in translation and I found myself not caring about almost anything in this movie. DeLillo’s moral lessons and social and political commentary get muddled and aren’t properly conveyed with the limitations of film making. While more of a knock on Baumbach than the actual movie, this was also a disastrous film shoot. Costing $140 million (!!) when this shouldn’t have cost over $40 million, shooting for over nine months (!!), deaths and injuries from crewmembers including a suicide, complaints of abuse from Baumbach, missed lunch breaks, switching cinematographers mid-shoot and multiple horror stories from the set from people who worked there, Baumbach proves that not only can he not handle the transition from mid-budget to big budget director, but that he is in David O. Russell levels of being a genuinely garbage person to work for on a film set. There is also some miscasting and white erasure with Don Cheadle and Jodie Turner-Smith giving fine performances but Cheadle isn’t right for the role and Turner-Smith is even further off than Cheadle. Add in André 3000 who was more of a distraction than anything since he is known more for Outkast than his acting abilities. The movie runs too long and some of the dialogue from Heinrich Gladney (the eldest son played by Sam Nivola) felt completely unrealistic to how teens actually talk. Worst of all, this drawn out movie ends with a completely cheesy and over the top music video in a grocery store which is not only inconsistent with the rest of the movie but cringe worthy and lasts way too long. As for the positives, the acting is fantastic with Adam Driver as Jack Gladney and Greta Gerwig as Babette Gladney delivering the goods. I was worried about Gerwig’s casting since she is Baumbach’s partner but she actually ended up suiting the role well and her acting is solid. Danny Elfman’s score is unlike anything he has done before and I dug his originality here. Finally, since there is an airborne toxic event in the movie, seeing mask wearing citizens losing their minds in the chaos was rather timely considering the China Virus that we have had to deal with over the past three years and similar parallels of stupidity and sheep like mentality on display. Despite some solid aspects, the fact that this doesn’t translate at all to the medium of cinema as well as Baumbach’s abhorrent behavior and an overly long bore ending in an embarrassingly out of place musical number, “White Noise” isn’t fit to act as white noise on your TV as you fall to sleep out of boredom.
#WhatAboutBabette / #DoOrDylar / #AdamStationWagonDriver / #DoubtCast / #MrJealousy2 / #DisparageStory

One thought on “#2 Netflix Film in 2023: White Noise

  1. This was such a great book!! Thanks for the review. I was hoping the movie would be better but like you said, it was going to be nearly impossible to translate this from book to film!


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