White Noise – film reviewWhite Noise (2022)

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Driver, Jack Gladney, Greta Gerwig, Babbette,  Jodie Turner-Smith,  Winnie Richards, Raffey Cassidy, Denise,  Don Cheadle, Murray Siskind

Select cinemas 25th Nov – Netflix 30th Dec

Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillos supposedly unfilmable postmodern novel has just had some premiere screenings as part of the BFI’s London Film Festival. Amy Britton headed to The Broadway Cinema, Nottingham (a festival partner venue) to see if Baumbach was up to this mammoth task of filmmaking…

The charm and appeal of the films of Noah Baumbach has, in the past, been down to their relatable simplicity. From the twentysomething navigations of Frances Ha to the generation gap observations of While You’re Young, he has always shown a key eye for reflecting various generations in the most down to earth of fashions. With White Noise, however, fans of the Don De Lillo novel it is based on will know he is certainly offering something different – after all, there’s a lot going on in the postmodern classic filled with existential dread and huge issues of death, society and the future. Like many of its genre, it is a novel previously thought unfilmable. So, has Baumbach proved himself up to the task?

In a word, yes. He never attempts to simplify the enormous themes, both primary and secondary, of the novel. Instead he lifts whole chunks of dialogue right off the page and casts them in the appropriate environments to be full of subtle messaging. It is a deeply  faithful and thus respectful take on it. Some of his trademarks as a filmmaker are still very much present, in particular the wry human interactions. Regular Baumbach favourites Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig also take the central roles as Jack and Babette Gladney – and both are utterly superb in the roles.

Gerwig’s portrayal of a seemingly happy-go-lucky figure harbouring a secret intense fear is perfect, particularly her tearful confession scene, while the essence of Jack Gladney, an almost-Everyman, but for a more Surreal time brings out the best in Driver, who has good form in these kinds of roles. Don Cheadle also gives an unashamedly theatrical and brilliant performance as Jack’s colleague Murray Siskind, with some of the most striking scenes being when the two of them share screen time.

But the most impressive element of White Noise is not that Baumbach has successfully adapted the novel, but that he has managed to maintain the actual feel of it. The colour palettes and settings bring the locations to life – in particular the supermarket, its bright and glaring aesthetic making it impossible to ignore as the emblem for modern day consumerism.

The ordinary and the extraordinary blend to impressive effect – a genuine highlight being when academics Jack and Murray teach a lecture together which allows their subjects to overlap – in a way which lulls the viewer into small moments of false security before hitting them with a the abnormal paradigm and sense of apocalypse. But above all, the mix of wry, dark humour thrown into existential dread is never lost. The thing that is apparent upon watching this is that Baumbach is clearly a huge fan of the novel and has set out to create the most perfectly crafted love letter to it possible. A brilliantly acted, bold cinematic gamble which has absolutely paid off.


All words by Amy Britton. Find more on her archive

Special thanks to the BFI and the Broadway Cinema

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