White Noise - Noah Baumbach gets Netflix money to make a DeLillo movie

I watched it yesterday in the cinema. It was like watching 3-4 movies at once. I liked it a lot. The cinema was empty, maybe because it is coming to Netflix very soon.

Lots of funny scenes…

Kermode savaged it, so it’s interesting to hear a contrary opinion

I watched this on Netflix.

It’s a “literary movie”, a film that wants to be a book, oh wait… it’s based on a book. Lots of smartly absurd dialog and familial dysfunction; toward the wholesome end of the spectrum. It’s a very soft R.

It’s not so much about fear of death as it is about life, and how annoying it can be. Sort of like The Happening, if The Happening were decent.

It’s a curious movie, wearing its literary source on its sleeve, and I enjoyed it a lot. The precocious kids were adorable. The portrait of indulgent college intellectual life was hilarious. And that supermarket set was a knockout! Frankly, I could have watched people shop in that store for the whole runtime. Do they give an Oscar for Best Supermarket? I guess we can hope the production designers get recognized; I think they did a wonderful job throughout.

I once tried to read a Don DeLillo novel and as far as I recall, I succeeded. I didn’t care for it, though, and honestly, I’m not sure I could tell you much about it. But watching White Noise, about halfway through, I started to suspect this was an adaptation of a Don DeLillo novel. Perhaps I’d heard that was Baumbach’s next project, or maybe it just felt so DeLillo the way it was shucking-and-jiving through so many genres? But by the time the credits rolled and I realized I was right, I had long since broken up with White Noise.

To quote the end of Seven, I agree with the first part.


Seriously though, Baumbach is so good with his actors. I loved those Speilbergian Close Encounters family chaos scenes, and that supermarket set that @Nightgaunt called out was a real treat, although I thought bringing it back for a musical number during the credits was just so DeLillo, or maybe just something someone suggested on set and Baumbach figured, “Eh, why not?”. That’s how a lot of the movie felt to me:

Should we suggest zombies? Will we explore infidelity and mortality? Should we choreograph a wild Elvis/Hitler lecture/duet? Should we make Greta Gerwig’s hair so crazy it will upstage any leaked photos from her Barbie movie?

“Eh, why not?”

Okay, Baumbach, you had your fun with a DeLillo novel. Can we get back to other stuff now, maybe shoot another one of Greta’s scripts?

I liked the credits sequence at the end better than the movie itself.

I read White Noise around '91 and can’t remember much either. Had some striking moments? I also read Libra which I sorta remember (a fictional account of Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK assassination) and actually enjoyed, as well as Mao II… which is murky. A lot of jumping around in time and shifting characters. I mostly read them because I was seeing a woman who was a Cornell lit major in the early 90’s . She thought Delillo was fantastic, and for the usual dumb reasons it seemed like a good idea to agree.

I’ll probably watch this and still not remember the novel.

Baumbach is also doing a Barbie movie due 2023. I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe it will be genius.

Also, lines that rhyme: “I’m not taking credit / forget it! / go back to your conversation” or that scene where Driver is refueling the station wagon and the gas station sign is quietly obscured by the airborne event; I love this. I don’t know if this is a trope or not but… scenes where there is a monster that is very real but it’s ominously in the background while not really doing anything. It’s a sort of… cozy feeling? Slightly funny… and spooky. It’s a very strange and particular note that rarely gets hit but that scene has it. It’s not a horror movie thing, and hard to explain.

In this case “doing” means co-writing it with Greta Gerwig, and Gerwig is directing it.

I watched this kind of by accident on Saturday night on Netflix. I accidentally got way more high than I was anticipating (gummies… who knew?) and my wife suggested the movie and I was in no position to argue. We were also somewhat frequently interrupted by our 3 y.o. who was unable to sleep due to the usual back-to-school illness (first week back after winter break). All that made for a very interesting viewing experience.

In any event… I think I liked it? I certainly had a great time. I really enjoyed the ridiculous college professor lectures and all I could think about was how it was a parody of the Dead Poets Society (I’m not even sure if that is true) and I also wanted to burst out laughing but couldn’t decide when to do so. Thankfully my college professors (who were generally excellent) were not quite that ridiculous but I did go to a small private college so I think I’m the target audience there. Also, “Hitler Studies”, lol.

Also, did the mysterious atmospheric event kind of go away in the last third of the movie or did I just lose track of it? Similar with the chapter intro cards?

The supermarket was amazing and absolutely perfect for my state of mind. I think I just sat there with my mouth open every time they were in it. And the dance at the end was totally mesmerizing.