Director Noah Baumbach, who helmed The Squid and the Whale and Marriage Story, returns with his new film, White Noise, which co-stars his partner Greta Gerwig and Star Wars actor Adam Driver. The film, released on Netflix in December after its cinema release, is an apocalyptic dark comedy and is adapted from the 1985 novel of the same name by author Don DeLillo. It focuses on a professor and his family as their lives are turned upside down by an “airborne toxic event” that causes them to flee their home and town.
The original novel, published in the mid-80s, was thought of as “unfilmable” in nature despite its success, but Baumbach’s directing skill means that the novel gets a faithful adaptation. Featuring in the central role of Jack Gladney is Adam Driver, who previously starred in Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Jack is four times married and also a leading professor in the field of Hitler studies, now living with his new wife Babette (Gerwig) and children, some of whom are his and some Babette’s. His fairly normal and mundane life is upturned when a cloud of toxic gas is released near the family’s town, forcing them to flee for their lives. What follows is an odd but funny comedy that acts as an allegory for contemporary life in America.
Jack’s family and the other residents of the town take centre stage in the story, with everyone having different facets and things they keep hidden and to themselves. Jack, for example, despite being an expert on the life of Hitler, hardly knows any German. His wife, Babette, who teaches posture classes for the elderly, secretly takes pills when no one’s around. All of these small-town idiosyncrasies come to a head when the deadly toxic cloud arrives. Also starring alongside Driver and Gerwig is Don Cheadle as fellow professor Murray Jay Siskind, Jodie Turner-Smith as Winnie Richards, and Lars Eidinger as Arlo Shell.