White Noise is a largely theoretical piece that is receiving awards buzz primarily for the performance of Adam Driver in the leading role and less so for the overall film. The film is meant to be intellectual and was sold to intellectuals. It was never intended for mass consumption.
Even with the caveat that it was written and created for a niche crowd, was White Noise worth the distraction? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: White Noise
Overall Rating: Not very good
Adapted from an equally theoretical postmodern novel, White Noise by Don DeLillo, White Noise is one that is meant to be chewed on. Though the dialogue in verse is a bit interesting and the performances are pretty strong, the film is so weedy and actually very ugly to look at (I don’t care if it’s on purpose it was badly done) that it’s impossible to like. Because the ideas and issues in the film have been thoroughly explored since the 1985 novel (and, frankly, quite a bit prior to the 1985 novel), the film’s intellectual center is contrived and tired with nothing new to offer. There is nothing intriguing about it and it comes off a little whiny as well as very boring.
The liberalism is strong in the film with how strongly it is anti-religion and anti-purpose but there are some conservative elements such as the mockery of the academic elite and philosophical thinkers in general. Which is sort of ironic considering the loftiness of the story.
Is it entertaining?
White Noise is unsalvageable and tedious. The characters speak in riddles so you can’t really get behind them at all. The random acts of drama that occur through the story are dealt with with the utmost nonchalance which really makes them hard to care about. Even if you thought that theoretical film was enjoyable, the material is so old and well explored there is no “eureka” there is nothing special to latch on to or make you feel anything. It’s an exhausting slog into an old and boring nihilistic essay. I have no idea how or why this film got made other than director Noah Baumbach’s good name really tricking people. To be fair to my consistency and perhaps my bias, I also hated Marriage Story.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value
Rating: Contrived and tired
To start there is nothing groundbreaking in a story about the inevitability of death and how everything in our life is just a distraction from the fact that we’re dying. God isn’t real, love is fake, fear is invented, nothing matters blah blah blah it’s boring. I’m bored. It’s absolutely trivial garbage. The source material was written in 1985 so perhaps it was a little less exhaustingly done to death at that time but Baumbach should have considered sprucing it up a bit and maybe adding something new to the insights if he wanted to retell this story in 2022/2023.
The entire artistic direction and cinematography of the film is God awful. Baumbach tries for a consumerist maximallism by invoking bright colors, many textures, and general chaos in every frame. But he doesn’t really do it well; it is just sort of a vomited mismatch of hideous wallpaper and bad accessories. It makes the movie sort of impossible to look at. It strives for Burton’s Edward Scissorhands era with a dash of Wes Anderson and maybe an ever so slight hint of Sofia Coppolla but it’s instead it’s just bad. It’s not good bad, just regular bad.
Adam Driver (Star Wars) is actually pretty great as Jack (especially considering the garbage material he was working with) and delivers verse in a way that I believe he may actually just talk like that all the time. The man’s pool of talent is seemingly infinite and we are standing still in the shallows. Greta Gerwig (Jackie) who is herself a more well known (and very gifted) screenwriter than actor is not great. Her Babette is not nuanced and seems mostly to just be a deer in the headlights. None of the child actors stand out. Don Cheadle (Avengers) does alright with what he has but nothing close to salvaging the thing.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Mostly yes; some conservative angles
Nihilism, the basic theme of the film, is intrinsically liberal and atheism is also intrinsically liberal (that’s right libertarians). The idea that there is no higher purpose or higher power is one deeply rooted in arrogance and humanism and is perpetuated by fearful small minds who cannot stand the idea they might be made to look foolish even in death. They’re the kind who have to seem like they have a hot take on everything. They don’t like normal movies, they don’t like normal music and they usually eat weirdly. They are contrarians for the sake of it and I cannot stand them and I cannot stand the exploration of their stupid, tired, boring belief system. The notion that we live for no purpose other than random satisfaction of self is tragic, boring, and a tool liberal governments often use to keep the proletariat from the hopefulness that comes with purpose. Religion is for the brave and the humble. Conservatives who believe in something more.
On the flip side, the film pokes pretty serious fun at elite academics which is definitely more of the conservative side of the coin. So its not nothing.
White Noise is a skip. But Adam Driver to be fair is pretty good in it.