The future in plastics once predicted in the ‘60s comes full circle in Noah Baumbach’s absurdist ‘80s-set dark comedy White Noise (C), in which airborne toxic events, misbegotten drug deals and the power of suggestion in consumerist culture swirl in the whirling dervish of a day-glo college town. This is far from linear or logical stuff, and it only works in spurts despite lots of creativity. Based on Don DeLillo’s notoriously unadaptable postmodern novel, this go-for-broke movie introduces all sorts of intriguing ideas which are equal parts fascinating and face palm worthy. Adam Driver is the assured oddity at the center of the proceedings as an eccentric professor of Hitler studies, surrounded domestically by a bunch of loquacious, precocious offspring from multiple marriages. His current wife played by a wryly funny Greta Gerwig is largely defined by a penne pasta meets poodle inspired haircut and a possible secret. Another talky teacher friend played with relish by Don Cheadle harbors awe for Elvis and supermarkets. The plot is a series of strange events, some that linger too lovingly long on their source material roots. The ensemble’s commitment to a hilariously heightened vibe is admirable though and makes for an uneven but readymade cult sensation, a bonkers love child of Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg and Kurt Vonnegut. Perhaps the film should be accompanied Rocky Horror style with a survival kit baggie of edibles. If you make it to the end, enjoy a closing credit musical sequence that’s somewhat more thematically cogent than the feature overstaying its welcome preceding it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and many of the denizens of Adam McKay’s new satire Don’t Look Up (B+) feel strangely fine. This is the dilemma for scientists played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence who have determined a comet is imminently headed for a collision with earth. Talk about a charged object for a blistering dark comedy! Mostly biting and sometimes too obvious in his observations, McKay presents his thesis to its logical conclusions thanks in part to a wry ensemble including Cate Blanchett as a cynical news anchor, Meryl Streep as an opportunistic U.S. president and Mark Rylance as the businessman behind the curtain who may or nay not hold a miracle cure to the planet’s extinction. Lawrence is the closest to an unblemished protagonist, and she is winning in the role. DiCaprio underplays his role a touch in order to accent his mounting spiral into desperation. Although it’s sometimes frenzied and fragmented, McKay’s epic love child of Dr. Strangelove and Network undoubtedly makes its point. Best as a commentary on the culture of the here and now, this film is intended to prod and provoke and does.