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White Noise Review | Noah Baumbach’s Latest is Exactly That

NYFF: Despite some great performances, stunning set design and a lush score, Noah Baumbach’s latest is a disappointment.

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When I think of the term “white noise,” I think of some noise that just blends in with the rest of the background commotion going on at a given moment. Heck, there are machines that manufacture the sound for those that need it. For Noah Baumbach, one of the world’s best directors, his latest film attempts to tell a big story with his adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name; mixing in some timely comparisons to recent pandemics and political agendas, Baumbach’s film, unfortunately, isn’t loud enough and ends up becoming, well, exactly what its title suggests: white noise. 

White Noise follows Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) — a leading professor in an up-and-coming educational program (please catch the sarcasm), Hitler studies — and his family including his wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) as they deal with a catastrophic “Airborne Toxic Event” that dominates the news and the world much like a very recent pandemic. In addition to the near extinction event, tensions rise between the Gladneys as Babette has some medication issues and her daughter Denise (Raffey Cassidy). This leads down a path that can best be summed up by saying that men are vengeful creatures. 

There’s something weirdly entrancing about the world that Baumbach has created. A prime example of this is the supermarket where Jack, along with everyone else in his town, does grocery shopping. It blends this weird fake aesthetic a la the grocery store on Guy’s Grocery Games but also feels like a real store. I know those statements contradicted one another, but you have to see it to believe it. The posters residing outside of the Walter Reade Theater shared this old-school aesthetic and are gorgeous posters. 

(L to R): Adam Driver as Jack, Greta Gerwig as Babette and Don Cheadle (Murray)White Noise. Cr. Netflix © 2022

This grocery store is also where Baumbach works in his metaphors subtly (in addition to his usage of ”Can’t Help Falling in Love”). This isn’t always the case, as will be discussed, but the motif of American consumerism — Jack only buys name brand products while his friend Murray (Don Cheadle) buys the store brand items such as “Pretzel Rods,” which are fitting stored in plain white bags and bold font. 

In most other cases, Baumbach’s subtlety only goes as far as the conveyer belts in the supermarket. The film’s central plot revolving around the “Airborne Toxic Event” is a nifty metaphor for the pandemic that we’re still dealing with to some degree. And the film has nothing interesting to say besides calling for attention from its audience as they see images they surely remember (e.g. facemasks, hospitals and shelters being full, the spreading of misinformation). 

I know it’s easy to poke fun at conservatives and talk about their spreading of misinformation, but couldn’t this have been done any more gracefully than having the kids of the Gladney family randomly constantly spewing “facts” that you can’t verify while in a movie theater? In fairness, another film I liked that had equal rhetoric, B.J. Novak‘s Vengeance, simplifies its targets to the burlesque extreme. However, in the case of Vengeance, the clowning makes sense because the film never tries to hide the fact that the overall message is that “conservatives are gun-loving morons.” Agree with the message or not, the film never runs from that. White Noise, whether due to the fact it was written many years ago or that Baumbach simply didn’t want to dig in that deep, never attempts to scratch below the surface.

(L to R): Sam Nivola as Heinrich, Adam Driver as Jack, May Nivola as Steffie, Greta Gerwig as Babette, Dean Moore/Henry Moore as Wilder and Raffey Cassidy as Denise in White Noise. Cr. Wilson Webb/Netflix © 2022

This part of the plot also results in Babette becoming afraid of the outside world. The fearmongering has clearly set in after a while, but for as hard as White Noise tries to make its extinction event as much of a spectacle as the recent pandemic, it never hits that mark. The metaphor hits you over the head like a mallet and it’s really not that the film is speaking of the subject matter too soon, it’s just not done tastefully.

The only time where the pandemic metaphor is used effectively is in the touching existential crisis that the Gladneys face. The couple spends a lot of time worrying about their mortality. This could be due to the fact that Driver and Gerwig’s characters are both reaching an age where their children are going into their teen years right before their eyes and in most cases, that suggests you’re getting older. It’s natural to fear death, but what happens when a near extinction event occurs? While bleak, this is the most humane aspect of the film.

White Noise is a film that’s at its peak when it’s completely unhinged. There’s a dance number towards the end that’s the best of the film by a mile — though the Hitler-Elvis debate gives it a run for its money — and all of the performances are perfectly turned up to 11 — specifically from Driver and Gerwig. It’s moments like these that make the film watchable. The rest, however, is a different story. 

Despite the film’s over-the-top and comedic nature, there’s something endearing about the performances of Driver and Gerwig. For one, Driver playing a professor and a father that’s just a little bit dorky was a pleasant change of pace. It’s amazing that Driver, whom I first saw as Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens in middle school, is now one of the most versatile actors working. You also can’t go wrong with Gerwig in her husband’s films, and she gives a very real performance. I actually thought that she was Kristen Wiig in the early parts of the film. Regardless, these two are great. Add Cheadle to the mix and you have an excellent starring trio. Cheadle isn’t given a whole lot in the film, but the scenes and dialogue he shares with Driver are top-notch stuff.

From what I understand, the film is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. I bought a copy in advance of the film but opted to read it afterward when I heard this. And now, days later, I can say that the film does adapt the pages quite faithfully from what I’ve read. The only difference I’ve spotted is the POV change (the book tells it from Jack’s perspective.). Regardless, it perhaps could have punched up the source material a teensy bit. I heard that the third act, or at least the climax, differs from the novel. Even so, the film takes a very conventional route to its end that is then prolonged like a Peter Frampton guitar solo.  

(L-R): Don Cheadle (Murray) and Adam Driver (Jack) in White Noise. Cr: Wilson Webb/Netflix © 2022

To be clear, Baumbach is a wonderful filmmaker with the likes of Frances Ha and Marriage Story to his name. Those two films are so personal and feel real whereas White Noise feels distant. It’s like Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, which is a fine film on its own but it lacks the authenticity of his previous work and fails to live up to that standard. And sure, White Noise is a dark comedy/satire through and through — as evident in Jack’s inability to speak German as the dean of the Hitler studies program at College on the Hill — but the way it handles its subject matter that goes deeper than that begs the question of whether or not this really is satire, or at least an effective one. I certainly see how DeLillo’s book, assuming this is a faithful page-to-screen adaptation, is easy to translate into any era, but White Noise often feels like a misguided attempt at being relevant. It’s perhaps a tad more subtle than Don’t Look Up, but one is far more entertaining than the other.

And perhaps this is due to the fact that White Noise is the first project in Baumbach’s filmography that isn’t penned by him. The authenticity of his other films could be due to the fact that he’s wielding the pen and can tell the story his way.

All of this is sad to report because White Noise was a film that I was so excited to see that I jumped out of bed and got on a bus by 6:00 a.m. to be one of the first in line at Lincoln Center (I wasn’t even the first in line). After a near-three-hour wait — which is almost as much sleep as I got that night — I was so ready to once again be blown away by Baumbach. Unfortunately, you could really debate if the satire packs any punch at all. Outside of its aesthetics and perfectly overdone performances, White Noise is very little more than exactly what its title implies. 


White Noise held its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 31 and will be released in select theaters on November 25 and available to stream on Netflix on December 30. 

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Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Entertainment

‘IF’ Review | The Most Meaningful and Heartfelt Movie of The Year, Delights With Pure Imagination

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This review was made possible by watching an advanced screening

The most meaningful and heartfelt movie of the year. “IF” enchants with delight and wonder as John Krasinski crafts a love letter to our childhood, making us experience emotions that ultimately hit me right in the feels as he reminds us to never lose sight of our imagination! 

In a cinematic landscape often dominated by cynicism and darkness, John Krasinski’s “IF” is a breath of fresh air, a heartwarming and endearing tale that will leave you beaming with joy as it expertly balances the magic, wonder, and adventure of childhood with the poignancy, trials, and tribulations of adulthood, creating a narrative that is at once both nostalgic and universally relatable. The real magic of “IF” lies in its ability to tap into the collective shared childhood experience by evoking memories of our imaginary friends & the adventures we’ve shared with them. 

“IF,” is a whimsical fantasy family adventure that explores the concept of abandoned imaginary friends or IFs as they call themselves. In this heartwarming tale, Bea, a young girl played beautifully by Cailey Fleming discovers her unique ability to see these unwanted characters and reconnect the forgotten IFs with their original creators who have now fully grown up as she embarks on a magical journey through this imaginative, colourful, and creative world. As one girl learns the power of imagination and friendship. Bea thinks she must be hallucinating – until the man in the apartment upstairs reveals he can also see the IFs. 

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Several years ago, Krasinski, known for his work on “A Quiet Place,” penned a script intending to uplift his children who were struggling with feelings of depression amidst the challenges of the pandemic. Krasinski not only wrote the script but also took on the role of director for the film. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., and Fiona Shaw, among many other A-listers lending their voices to the characters, “IF” was inspired by the impact of the pandemic on Krasinski’s daughters, Hazel and Violet.

Having long harboured the desire to create a film for his children, Krasinski found inspiration in the imaginative worlds his daughters would delve into. Witnessing the genuine joy and authenticity with which they played, he was motivated to capture this magic on screen. Through “IF,” Krasinski aimed to show his daughters that this world of imagination and make-believe is always within reach, a place where they can be anything they desire. This magical world is ever-present and waiting for them to explore.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Imaginary friends, these elusive entities existing solely in a child’s vivid imagination, serve as a comforting beacon amidst the chaos of adulthood. In this whimsical tale, away from the foreboding presence of sightless extraterrestrials, audiences are treated to a cascade of endearing characters and a wave of nostalgic charm that instils a heartwarming sense of joy and wonder. “IF” is a delightful escapade that celebrates the virtues of curiosity, creativity, and innocence, rekindling the essence of childhood wonder, and reminding us that the magic is always within reach.

Featuring a star-studded lineup of IFs including Steve Carell, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Keegan-Michael Key, and more, the film introduces a mix of charismatic imaginary beings brought to life through the distinct voices of these esteemed actors. Each character, with its unique backstory and quirks, adds a human touch to the ethereal world, resonating with both younger viewers and their older counterparts.

The film’s exploration of imaginary friends serves as a poignant reminder that our childhood aspirations and dreams are not just fleeting fantasies, but rather tangible time capsules that hold the power to shape our future. These creations, born from our imagination, are a manifestation of our hopes, desires, and innermost ambitions – a reflection of who we wanted to be and what we wanted to achieve. As we grow up and face the harsh realities of adulthood, it’s easy to lose sight of these childhood ideals, but the film suggests that we don’t have to let go of that spark. By tapping into the imagination and embracing the spirit of our youthful selves, we can reignite our passions, rediscover our sense of purpose, and continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves. In this way, imaginary friends become a powerful tool for self-reflection, creativity, and personal growth, reminding us that even as we age, we can still hold onto the essence of our childhood dreams.”

Through the vibrant personalities of figures like Blue, Unicorn, Sunny, Spaceman, and Ally, the movie explores the boundless bounds of a child’s imagination. A blend of conventional and eccentric companions, such as Blossom, Ice, Cosmo, and Marshmallow creates a tapestry of humour and charm that engages viewers in a realm where the fantastical meets the mundane in delightful ways. Most significantly Lewis, an old teddy bear voiced by Louis Gossett Jr sadly passed away and the film is lovingly dedicated to him with such a touching tribute after the credits rolled.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

To render the unseen into vision, director John Krasinski enlisted the expertise of VFX supervisor Chris Lawrence and the revered effects studio Framestore, weaving together around 800 meticulously crafted shots featuring a diverse ensemble of 42 CGI characters. Within this narrative realm, a poignant blend of fantasy and magical realism flourishes, engendering a profound sense of belief in the audience as they witness these ethereal beings coalesce on screen. Employing a blend of physical puppets and digital animation, the film sought to honour the sanctity of space and performance, poised on the precipice of seamlessly integrating these otherworldly entities within the tangible fabric of the film universe.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Through this meticulous fusion of technical prowess and artistic vision, the film emerges as a testament to the transformative power of storytelling, poised to captivate audiences with its charm and artistry.

With a captivating blend of computer-generated CGI forms seamlessly integrating into the real world, expertly led by the dynamic duo of Fleming and Reynolds, As the live-action leads, they exhibit effortless chemistry on-screen, commanding attention and drawing the audience in. The initial wariness between Bea and Cal gives way to a warm and engaging rapport, characterised by witty banter and exasperation.

As Bea navigates the challenges of transitioning through her teenage years, she finds solace in these quirky and unique imaginary friends, embracing the comfort and security of childhood delights. Meanwhile, the film’s relationships take centre stage, led by the charismatic performance of Ryan Reynolds and standout Cailey Fleming, alongside Fiona Shaw. The movie’s greatest strength lies in its nuanced balance between lighthearted moments and emotional depth, evoking a sense of warmth and family, particularly during poignant reunion scenes.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

One of the film’s most endearing relationships is that between Bea and her father, played by Krasinski, which is charmingly tender and heartfelt.

Michael Giacchino’s music score for the movie “If” is a masterclass in emotional depth and thematic complexity. The composer delivers one of the best scores of his career, weaving a sonic tapestry that perfectly captures the film’s poignant exploration of connection whether that’s from human or imaginary. Giacchino’s themes are creative, heartfelt, and sincere, expertly conveying the emotional highs and lows of the characters’ journeys. From the tender warmth to the soaring grandeur of the score’s more uplifting moments, every note feels carefully crafted to elevate the film’s emotional impact. Giacchino’s score is a stunning achievement, showcasing his remarkable composer skill and ability to tap into the heart of a story.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In essence, “IF” is a cinematic celebration of the power of imagination, brought to life through a tapestry of endearing characters and heartfelt moments that left me feeling nostalgic and uplifted. With its colourful jumble of personalities and whimsical storytelling, the film is a captivating journey into the enchanting world of make-believe that will warm the hearts of viewers of all ages. 

IF” hits theatres on May 17. 

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Adventure

Arthur the King is an Epic Masterpiece

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Arthur the King movie poster (Lionsgate Films)

Here follows the review of Arthur the King, a story of deep connection between people and dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, some have wagging tails and would cross a river (and jungle) for you.

Plot

Desperate for one last chance to win, Michael Light convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. As the team gets pushed to the outer limits of endurance, a dog named Arthur comes along for the ride, redefining what victory, loyalty and friendship truly means.

Arthur Foundation

Mikael Lindnord raced through a jungle in Ecuador and after feeding a few meatballs to a stray dog made a friend for life. The dog followed Mikael and his team through the rough terrain. Mikael named the dog Arthur and took him back home with him.

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord (Photo taken by Krister Goransson)

The Arthur Foundation collaborates with various organizations in different countries that work towards animal welfare.

Click on the following links to reach out to Mikael Lindnord.

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The movie is based on the memoir, Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, who was the athlete who participated in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. It is important to note in the movie they refer to him as Michael Light. Even though the original race took place in Ecuador, the movie changed the location to the Dominican Republic. The original race took place in 2014, while in the movie the race takes place in 2018.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the part of the Mikael and delivers an excellent performance alongside Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. Ukai, a stray dog, was a real champion portraying the role of Arthur. The film takes us through picturesque locations in the Dominican Republic. The suspense was felt at every turn and corner and you are kept glued to the screen with a gripping storyline. The story balances the journey of Mikael and Arthur and eventually joins their path like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Light (Lionsgate Films)

A fictional backstory is provided of Mikael’s competitive journey as well as the journey that Arthur took to get to Mikael. The movie successfully tells a deep story of connection between dogs and people. If you want to know more about the real story, you can check your local bookstore or Amazon for a copy of Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home

This movie is a 5 out of 5 for me. The connection between Mikael and Arthur is brought to life in this epic masterpiece. Arthur found a home in the heart of Mikael and thanks to Mark Wahlberg and Ukai, this film adaptation of ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ became a memorable movie.

The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the important scenes of the movie. Arthur the King has a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end.

Arthur the King Official Trailer (Lionsgate Films)

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Entertainment

A Must-See Satanic Panic Horror – Late Night With the Devil

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Written and directed by Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes, Late Night With the Devil follows a late night TV host Jack Delroy, fighting the plummeting viewership of his show by welcoming in people from the occult in order to change that, but of course, everything doesn’t go as smooth as planned.

David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy Late Night With the Devil (2023)

David Dastmalchian has appeared in a lot of films however always in smaller roles including The Dark Knight, Prisoners and more recently The Suicide Squad. This film allows Dastmalchian to take on the lead role of Jack Delroy, the host of the late night show at the centre of this film, and he genuinely does a great job. There’s a real range of emotions which his character goes through during the course of this film and he depicts them so well.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you’re going to really appreciate the use of practical effects in this. There’s plenty of stretchy and gooey gore for all of the horror fanatics that will have you shouting at the screen. 

From left to right: Laura Gordon, Ingrid Torelli, David Dastmalchian, Ian Bliss

If you want to hear my full thoughts, check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your opinions in the comments.

Late Night With the Devil will be released in cinemas from 22nd March and on Shudder on 19th April.

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