White Noise – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director – Noah Baumbach
Writers – Noah Baumbach (written for the screen by), Don DeLillo (based on the book by)
Stars – Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle
This is an adaptation of the 1985 novel by Don Delillo of the same title, which was often said to be unfilmable! Noah Baumbach has taken up the challenge, as he has written the screenplay and directed the work. It centres on the daily life of a family, consisting as it does of a husband and wife who have had previous marriages and, as a result, their four children are his, hers and theirs.
The father of the family is Jack Gantley (Adam Driver) and his wife is Babette (Greta Gerwig). Each family member has an angst-like existence heightened by innumerable consumer choices that each faces in their daily life. Going to the supermarket, for instance, which is the epicentre of numerous decisions, Babette struggles with making a choice between cigarettes and some brand of chewing gum which one of the children proclaims assuredly causes cancer. The choice of either will bring death. This is the everyday existence that each member of the family breathes as each makes these decisions.
The film is divided into three sections entitled “This is the Family”, “This is the Accident” and “This is the Aftermath”. Needless to say “the Accident” and “the Aftermath” lead to a further multiplicity of choices for this family as they seek to escape in the family car from “the Accident”. “The Accident” includes an unlikely dash across the countryside without roads during which the family car floats along a murky river, as they flee to safety.
Although the story is helpfully divided into sections, Baumbach adopts a rapid speed of storytelling with the images and conversational clips moving at a fast pace. Presumably, this complements the quick pace of life that this angst-ridden family lead. Reflection is not part of the storyline and at times the film seems weighed down by the heavy notions it is exploring. The film seems to be splitting opinions and has a Marmite like quality. The Guardian website is currently hosting two reviews, one with five stars and the other with two!
There is however a memorable sequence. While the film moves towards its conclusion and the credits begin to roll there is a dance scene in a supermarket which is mesmerising to watch. It avails of all the paraphernalia and rituals of supermarket shopping to create a sequence of joyous ingenuity. Perhaps it is worth going to see the entire film in order to be uplifted by these inventive, celebratory final scenes of a unique dance.