Let’s see how Baumbach, Driver, and Gerwig handle their fears of death.
Noah Baumbach reunites with his fellow stars Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig for “White Noise,” a movie with various genres that rarely meet. It’s a horror movie, it’s a dark comedy, it’s a family drama, and it’s a tense thriller. And it’s also is scared about the concept of death.
Seeing this at the New York Film Festival, and thinking about the characters, I was partly reminded of how awful Simon Pegg was in “A Fantastic Fear of Everything,” which had him super-gluing a knife to his hands, making him look like a killer. Driver and Gerwig both handle their fear much better than he did.
And looking at the kids’ perspectives about doom and gloom, I was reminded about how I, myself, have asked my family questions about the doomsday clock, which they clarified was because of how pollution and nuclear wars can threaten people. It’s more about getting attention. I’m lucky to have them to assure me of that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The time is set in a fictional midwestern area in the 1980s, and Don DeLillo’s book was published in 1985. It’s refreshing because we’ve made it past the 80s, and it’s not a doomsday movie, but an airborne event that doesn’t last long.
Again, getting ahead of myself. Sorry about that.
Adam Driver plays Jack Gladney, a college professor of Hitler studies, who has been afraid of a white noise death, while Greta Gerwig as his wife Babette is taking a drug that isn’t even on the market. They have a blended family, in which the kids worry about the doom and gloom, while the parents try to hide their true feelings.
The main child to be concerned is Babette’s daughter Denise (Raffey Cassidy), who knew about her mother’s pill-popping habit before Jack did. And this pill is known as “Dylar.”
Here comes the doom and gloom.
A drunk trucker crashes into a train pulling toxic chemicals, and that collision causes an airborne pollution, which threatens society. It’s known as “the Airborne Toxic Event,” and now, the family must seek sanctuary.
Jack had to step out of the car to fill it with gas, just as the poison cloud hovers over him. He may be sick from it, and won’t die now, but sometime later in his life. Immediately after they’re safely allowed to return home now scared of death even more so than before, and he must find out what pulls his wife is taking.
Don Cheadle plays Jack’s fellow professor friend, who discusses about Elvis, death, American culture, and supermarkets. He gives him a small gun to look death in the eye. And Jodie Turner-Smith plays a chemist, who can’t distinguish the pill Babette is taking. No one can. After all, it’s not on the market.
I was a little bored by a few monologues, but I was mostly entertained by the film’s true nature, and how it tries to cover it with some laughs and stress. It’s easy to understand why parents would try to act like everything is okay, when it isn’t, and it’s hard to acknowledge their depression, since I’m not in their shoes.
As in “Marriage Story,” Baumbach guides Driver with a poetic and complex study that allows the audience to ease into his world. And in their third film together (after “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America”), the director allows Gerwig to portray a woman that the audience is trying to figure out what her issues are. And then, when we finally get the reason, or at least try to understand it, it’s handled in a low key nature.
But it’s not just them we must single out. Cheadle has the age and dialogue as the fellow professor, who has his own aspects on various elements in life, no matter how insignificant. I mean, how many people can talk about groceries stores, especially when A&P was making business? And Cassidy, whom I’ve liked in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” cuts back on the 80s girl movie cliches to focus on more important things, like the safety of her family. Not just for the airborne event, but also for her mother’s sanity.
“White Noise” is a genre combo that finds its name in Baumbach’s masterpiece cannon.
In Select Theaters This Friday
Streaming on Netflix December 30th
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