I’m convinced that Noah Baumbach has never spoken to somebody who didn’t have at least a Master’s degree. His films cater almost exclusively to the intellectual elite – his dialogue is laughably detached from the actual experience of everyday Americans. Sometimes it works well, like in Marriage Story, because the characters themselves are part of the intellectual elite. But then there are films like White Noise, where the characters are supposed to be ‘ordinary people’, and it’s just ridiculous.
The movie includes a typical Baumbach cast: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and a reincarnation of Jesse Eisenberg from The Squid and the Whale (newcomer Sam Nivola). They’re all committed to their roles, even if they’re not believable as an actual middle class family. There are some absurd moments that are so baffling they’re entertaining, like when Don Cheadle and Adam Driver debate Elvis vs. Hitler. And the production is top-notch – no expense was spared on fulfilling Baumbach’s quirky, ‘apocalyptic’ vision.
But by and large, it’s not very watchable. The dialogue is terrible, not to mention it feels like two movies welded into one. And in the wake of the pandemic, it feels especially tone-deaf – as if Baumbach is trying to reassure the public that he’s one of us, because he understands the trauma of a disaster, the frustration of dealing with ‘experts’, the importance of cool car crashes, and the comfort of 80s nostalgia. It’s so detached it’s insulting. Just watch Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, The Fabelmans, or even Avatar 2, both of which are more genuine and entertaining than this patronizing garbage.