WHITE NOISE – Review by Susan Granger

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Advertised as an absurdist comedy, Noah Baumbach’s White Noise is neither fanciful nor funny.

Adapted by Baumbach from Dom DiLillo’s minimalist satire, it revolves around how a Midwestern family in the 1980s copes with an environmental disaster and their fears of death.

Since each has been married three times before, middle-aged Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) and his wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) do their best to accommodate the various demands of their blended family.

Although he’s unable to speak German, Jack teaches a Hitler Studies course at the (fictional) College-on-the-Hill, while Babette dabbles in self-help and secretly pops pharmaceuticals.

The catastrophe they must endure is caused by a horrific crash in which a distracted truck driver hauling explosive chemicals crashes into a freight train. The result is a huge, black, toxic cloud that ominously hovers above.

When ordered to evacuate their home, Jack, Babette and their kids pile into their huge Chevolet station wagon. Caught in a steady stream of cars, filled with panicked passengers, they’re headed toward shelter in a Boy Scout camp. There’s an endless stream of idle conversation, prompting Jack to observe that the family is ”the cradle of the world’s misinformation.”

Meanwhile, Jack’s academic colleague Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle), an Elvis Studies scholar, proclaims that supermarkets, particularly the local A&P, have become our nirvana. Actually, a long, concluding wide shot of the brightly lit A&P aisles and check-out counters is the creative highlight of the film.

DiLillo’s highly-acclaimed 1985 novel was remarkably prescient about our consumerist, conspiracy-plagued culture. Often deemed un-filmable because of its abstract ideas, both Barry Sonnenfeld and Michael Almereyda were attached to direct before Baumbach.

Unfortunately, Baumbach’s interpretation is simply self-indulgent, spending far too much time focused on Gerwig’s tearful adultery confession and Driver’s seemingly inevitable reaction.

As advertised by the title, the result is ‘white noise,’ which is defined as an all-encompassing sound, embracing all frequencies, that masks all other sounds and is perceived as ‘static’ by the human ear.

So the question is: Do you really want to sit through two hours of dialogue drivel that’s as annoying as crackling static?

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, White Noise is a frustrating 4, streaming on Netflix.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.