With projects like David Fincher’s film The Killer & George C. Wolfe’s patch being pushed back to 2023, many awards season pundits felt that Netflix’s best chance for Best Picture at the Oscars was Noah Baumbach’s latest film, White Noiseand for good reasons.
Baumbach’s latest film, the critically acclaimed divorce drama. Marriage story, was nominated for Best Picture of 2020 Before the World Stops. He gave Netflix its first acting Oscar thanks to the performance of Laura Dern. It also gave us one of the best meme movies of the year, with velociraptors arguing. Google if you’re unfamiliar.
So with Baumbach’s reputation as an indie film god and his growing respect in awards circles, it’s clear that Netflix will have another dog in the hunt this year.
And then you heard the words “Professor of Hitler Studies” and you thought you might want to slow down.
Based on the National Book Award-winning novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, the plot of White Noise can seem quite bewildering to the average viewer. It follows a year in the life of a death-obsessed Hitler Studies professor and his family as they navigate the challenges of a chemical spill turned atmospheric toxic event, an illegal prescription drug trial , & of a showdown in a seedy motel at gunpoint.
It sounds pretty unadaptable when you put it like that, but what Baumbach creates is an incessant & rich tapestry of obsessions, distractions, and philosophies, all aimed at avoiding the inevitable conclusion of our lives: consumerism, religion, celebrity worship, drug abuse.
It’s all part of avoiding what we constantly face. Some more than others, but probably none more than Jack (Adam Driver) and Babette (Greta Gerwig), who take us on a roller coaster ride whose drift is matched only by the dark comedies of Joel and Ethan Coen.
In fact, one of the best things about this movie is how Baumbach uses his increased budget this time around to create a second act with action stunts and set pieces that look more like Spielberg than to those of his previous works. The influences don’t stop there either as we are treated to some very intellectual and fast-paced cross-talk that makes us feel like we’re in a Robert Altman movie and moments of heightened reality where the characters talk about a way you don’t hear in real life, like in a David Lynch movie.
The only disappointment for me, and maybe for Netflix, is that the movie probably won’t get enough awards this time around.
In fact, White Noise could become an awards season curiosity in itself. It’s very rare to hear the combination of a movie that opens the Venice Film Festival AND the New York Film Festival and might not get a single Oscar nomination.
Even though the performances are quite strong, and the difficulty level of the adaptation of DeLillo’s novel is even stronger, the best chance for the film during awards season might be with LCD Soundsystem.
Yes. This LCD Soundsystem.
In the final moments of the film, right up to the end credits, Baumbach gives us one of the film’s most gripping and entertaining sequences: a grocery store turns into a dance party, punctuated by the hypnotically earworm delicious “New Body Rhumba” from, you guessed it, LCD Soundsystem.
If you like “Daft Punk Playing at My House,” wait until you see LCD playing in aisle 12.
The song has already been nominated for Best Song at the upcoming Critics Choice Awards, and this reviewer can look forward to the same nomination (and win) come Oscar Sunday.
All in all, Baumbach goes beyond anything he can imagine doing in a movie and takes the biggest turn of his career with this one. Many will think the movie is just too much to bear on first viewing, but I feel like once you get past the “noise” this movie packs in, you see it for the meditations bold and sometimes ridiculous & the dark comedy moments that make the movie consistently entertaining.
Watch White Noise If you like
- Marriage story
- The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
- Kicking & Screaming (1995)
- Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
White Noise MVP
Adam Driver as Jack Gladney.
Playing a death-obsessed Hitler studies professor who can’t really speak German might seem like a tough pass for most actors, but not for Adam Driver.
Constantly pushing themselves to take on new, exciting, & bordering on the impossible, Driver comes close to the limit with the dizzyingly intelligent but chronically needy character of Gladney who is at the center of almost every frame.
PLAY, PAUSE OR STOP?
While not for everyone and maybe not even the Academy this time around, White Noise will leave fans of Baumbach & DeLillo with a smirk and connivance on his face.
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Should you watch ‘White Noise’ on Netflix? Our review of Noah Baumbach’s film – In question