White Noise review – Noah Baumbach and the cast are all at their best in one of the best films of the year

By Jacob Throneberry
Published: December 15, 2022 (Last updated: January 5, 2023)


White Noise is adapted from the Don DeLillo book of the same name and follows the family of Jack Gladney, a Professor of Hitler Studies, as they learn to deal with life, death, and the Airborne Toxic Event.

We review the Netflix film White Noise (2022), which does not contain spoilers.

White noise is described as a constant background noise that is used to drive out other sounds. It is a noise that can help suppress thoughts, but it is only temporary as when the sound fades, all other noises come flushing back through. The film White Noise (2022), based on the book by Don DeLillo, attempts to do the same, except in this case it’s not the noise that is being driven out, it’s death; more specifically the fear of it.

This is a high concept that is tackled in many different forms of media, and trying to find a new approach, while adapting this novel, would prove challenging for anyone. Coming off the heels of his most personal film yet (Marriage Story), Noah Baumbach decided that he was done making intimate small-scale portrayals of humankind, at least for now, and instead chose to go in quite a different route. White Noise is that different route, and is as out there from a visual and thematic standpoint that one might expect from someone like Charlie Kaufmann, but not something anyone expected from Baumbach.

Changing up style so drastically definitely comes with its risks, but pulling it off can alter the way people see you as a director; what Baumbach manages to pull off here is nothing short of greatness. However, surprisingly it is the direction that stands out far more than the screenplay. This doesn’t mean the screenplay is bad by any means, having to adapt a novel that has been labeled “unadaptable” would prove difficult for any screenwriter, and Baumbach does his absolute best at bringing out these themes in dialogue and subtext, but how he films it all is truly magnificent.

He has a visual understanding of what this novel is trying to say and mesmerizingly is able to display and control every scene. At times, it feels like a Spielberg adventure movie and a Kaufmann metaphysical exploration all combined into one. There is a pretentious nature to it that feels earned and deserved, and never out of place within the story. From a technical standpoint, this is Baumbach’s best work to date. It’s his most visually compelling and all-out direction that makes this film work, but what makes it work as well as it does is the fully committed performances from the entire cast.

Everyone here is phenomenal, Don Cheadle and Greta Gerwig both provide brilliant performances that easily rank among their best, but it is Adam Driver who truly gives this wacky and complex film his all. In his second straight project with the director, Adam Driver elevates his already impressive career with a splendid performance of self-assuredness and perpetual fear. Driver plays Jack Gladney, a Professor who specializes in Hitler Studies, and is obsessed with the fear of death; how this fear can drive people to desperate measures.

There is a tonal shift when the climax comes that alters everything you might be thinking about this film. It is a shift that works so well because of Baumbach and the cast and completely ties together the themes of the film in a stellar way that leads all the way up to one of the best endings, and credits sequences, I have seen in quite some time.

Top to bottom, White Noise is a hypnotic and engaging look into a profoundly human fear: death. Noah Baumbach’s best direction to date coupled with a fully committed cast — the standout being Adam Driver — makes White Noise not just one of the most entertaining and best films of the year, but also one of the most compelling.

What did you think of the Netflix film White Noise (2022)? Comment below.

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