Following a November 25, 2022 limited release, the highly anticipated “White Noise” receives its Netflix launch on December 30. The dark comedy, written and directed by Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story,” “The Squid and the Whale”), dramatizes a contemporary American family’s attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life while grappling with the universal mysteries of love, death and the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world. It was adapted from the 1985 novel of the same name by Don DeLillo.
Adam Driver has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Film Comedy/Musical Actor for his starring role as Jack. Oscar nominees Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle are among the ensemble cast. The movie currently holds a freshness rating of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critics consensus reading, “White Noise may occasionally struggle with its allegedly unfilmable source material, but Noah Baumbach succeeds in finding the humorous heart of its surprisingly timely story.” Read our review roundup below.
Josh Kupecki of Austin Chronicle writes, “[Baumbach] forays into broad comedy and slapstick falter, drawing attention in all the wrong ways… Still, the entire cast is pitch-perfect, everyone inhabiting their roles with an expert ease.”
Lisa Giles-Keddie of HeyUGuys had mixed feelings, writing, “With so much fascinating material to cover, Baumbach inevitably loses those really insightful moments and neuroses of his characters from his earlier work. The truth is we feel somewhat less invested here – even when witnessing the intimate, reassuring bedtime discussions between Jack and Babette.” Saying that, Driver shines and “embodies smug academic and showman Jack who presides over all, enrapturing his students, though never quite acknowledging any of them either. The actor commands and drives both the absurd and bleaker moments in this, all the while helpfully sharing his character’s philosophy in the monologues.”
Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly begins by stating, “Postmodernism is a hell of a drug.” The cast is praised and viewed as one of the film’s major strengths. “It helps that [Baumbach] has two of his favorite collaborators to help carry the load: Adam Driver, whom he’s now worked with five times, is the garrulous, Buddha-bellied Jack, and Greta Gerwig, another regular coconspirator and also Baumbach’s partner in life, is Jack’s wife Babette, a suburban goddess in a blonde spiral perm.” She adds, “Compared to the tender groundedness of Baumbach’s finest films, like ‘The Squid and the Whale’ and ‘Marriage Story,’ the scampering leaps and feints of his script here come off as deliberately arch, even artificial. The movie’s final scene, though, without spoiling too much, is also easily its best.”
Travis Hopson of Punch Drunk Critics was not impressed. “A well-intentioned disaster, Baumbach’s attempt at the ‘unfilmmable’ project can never find its footing, because DeLillo never did, either.” He adds, “Originally authored in 1985, ‘White Noise‘s’ sensibilities don’t feel rooted in anything contemporary.” The director might connect with the script but the cast does not. In the end, the “most rewarding scene is a bravura grocery store dance number over the closing credits.”
Joshua Bogatin of In Review Online was equally as unimpressed. “Death, and the existential angst swarming around the anticipation of death, is, ostensibly, the overarching theme of White Noise; unfortunately, it’s also a theme which Baumbach seems incapable of meeting in its attendant seriousness and depth.” None of the performances are singled out as notable but “Baumbach does more interesting work in three minutes than he does in the remaining 134, evoking the profundity of familial silences in the lucidly comic, yet restrained, manner that populates his best work. That this, and the ensuing scenes of the family’s struggle to remain calm as they sit in traffic while evacuating their home, is eventually drowned out by a poorly constructed car chase that results in little but lame slapstick is a tidy example of the film’s failings.”
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