Noah Baumbach’s Netflix film, “White Noise” is a unique movie, to say the least. His first ever adapted screenplay is from the classic novel by Don DeLillo (of the same name), considered “unfilmable” by most. The plot of “White Noise” is highly satirical, which is sometimes difficult to translate to the screen, causing some to consider it unbearable. Still, at its core, it’s a family drama that is half shattered and half confusing. A movie that will divide audiences for sure but definitely lead to interesting discourse, to say the least. The almost theater-style over-acting is a unique way to add a comedic spin to the source material, leading to some discomfort and lots of questions, but here’s our attempt to answer some of them.
‘White Noise’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
“White Noise” is about Jack Gladney, a middle aged American, who lives with his wife Babette, and their four children. Denise, Babette’s child from her first wife; Heinrich, Jack’s son from his first wife; Stefie from his second; and Wilder, Jack and Babette’s child (yes, a mouthful). The family lives in an American dream-style home in the mid-80s, with Jack being an esteemed professor at the college on the hill, pioneering the unique subject of Hitler studies. The kids in the family seem to be highly intellectual and sometimes annoying, and everyone in this household loves to talk over each other about literally anything and everything. Denise is an anxiety-stricken paranoid teen who is worried her mother, “Baba,” is taking some strange drugs, and Heinrich is an over-analytical, street-smart, future-ready son, quite a spitting image of his father in all senses. Stefie is a curious cat, and Wilder is a quiet child who is too young to understand anything that is happening. Jack has a great friend in Murray at the college, who needs Jack’s help to establish Elvis as his Hitler. Murray is also Jack’s confidante and truly wishes to help him out.
A catastrophe occurs one day when a drunk driver crashes his tanker into a train, causing a huge cloud of toxic chemicals to spread over the town. Over the radio, the authorities try and figure out the symptoms, precautionary methods, and the immediate response for what everyone should do in this newly arisen calamity. The Gladneys are forced to evacuate and head to a refugee camp. It seems as though everything is alright quite soon, and the family heads back home. Denise decides to examine her mother’s condition as she starts to forget things. Her worries take her to Jack, who tries his best to help her figure out what’s wrong, to no avail. Finally, he decides to confront Baba and understand the true cause of her worries. Let’s explore what these are.
‘White Noise’ Ending Explained: What Is The Crux Of This Distracting Film?
The last act of “White Noise” begins with a terribly honest and deep conversation between Baba and Jack about her reasons for taking the mystery drug ‘Dylar’ and then goes into a revenge noir thriller courtesy of Jack’s jealousy and anger. Babette confides in Jack that she has been afraid of death, and that is the reason she became a trial subject in a drug test for a pill that takes your fear of death away. Unfortunately, the trials come to an end because the pills don’t work, but Babette’s fear has taken over, causing her to want the pills more. The only way she is able to get them, though, is by having sexual relations with the man who is selling them to her, Mr. Gray. During the “Airborne Toxic Event,” Murray gave Jack a gun to protect himself from death, telling him that maybe killing another man would give him life credit. Of course, we know this is not true, but perhaps Jack believes him as he takes the gun out to go get Mr. Gray. As he gets there and executes his plan, Babette figures out where he is and reaches him. What Jack hasn’t realized is that he has shot Mr. Gray only twice and placed the gun in his hand while there’s an extra bullet still in it. Mr. Gray ends up shooting at Jack, and both Jack and Baba get shot, but they’re both okay. Babette convinces Mr. Gray’s drug addled self that he was the one who shot them and himself because he has the gun in his hand. They drag him to the nearest emergency center, which happens to be run by nuns. While they heal from the gunshot wounds, they also have an interesting conversation with a nun about death and the afterlife. When Babette tells Jack about her fear of death, he tells her that he is the one in this family who is afraid of it, but it seems this looming fear is what controls everyone in the world.
Every plot line, twist, and line of dialogue in “White Noise” leads deathward, but the true meaning of life lies in relationships, love, and the happiness of going to your nearest grocery store. The grocery store is a sanctuary for those living in this chaotic world, and to end the movie with an outright dance number in this place of sanctuary may be a representation of our dependence on consumerism to be content. Aside from that, though, Jack finally comes to terms with the fact that his wife needs him and solves the problem with her, saving their relationship. Heinrich and Denise play a huge role in saving the family too, and in many ways, we may feel like Wilder getting thrown into absurd situations while watching this movie. While Noah throws us “off the rails,” many times, we are brought back to our own reality with minute things such as the dumbing down of public information during a devastating event or the flawed education system that allows you to be an expert at anything today. If we’re distracted by all the white noise, the point of life is lost, even if, in the end, we’re all meant to die.