Good_Will_Harding wrote: ↑December 10th, 2022, 1:51 am
('22 - Baumbach)
The latest from Noah Baumbach, which I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to see, but I was always going to check it out anyway, since I typically like his works and in particular really liked his most recent effort, Marriage Story
. Plus, I'll always take the chance to see a Netflix original production on the big screen, so long as they still offer them that way. And I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's certainly this director's most ambitious film to date on just about every front - visually, in terms of the scope and scale of the production, and regarding the many genres this tries to splice into a single story (dark comedy, apocalyptic thriller, domestic drama, etc) - to the point that even if I didn't know beforehand that this was adapted from a novel (Don DeLillo's cult classic of the same name), I would've suspected it after a certain point. However, there's still plenty of Baumbach's familiar deadpan humor and familial dysfunction baked into the proceedings as well, which is what I suspect drew him to this project the most. This has a pretty strong first two thirds, but does somewhat lose its way in the final act, by making a hard pivot that I'm sure worked better on the page. However, on the whole I still thoroughly enjoyed this, and it really stands out as a very unique entry into Baumbach's filmography.
I saw this myself yesterday. Kind of amazed that it showed up here (well, here being an hour away). Happy to see a few other people at the screening - and there were very few cars in the parking lot for the 15-screen multiplex in general. There IS an audience for stuff other than superheroes, Hollywood. Really, there is. But I guess us middle-aged people aren't as easy to figure out, and we don't go buy White Noise action figures or video games. Fuck.
Anyway, yeah, there's an audience, but I don't think even in the best of times it would be huge for this film, which on one viewing strikes me as sort of a melange of 4 parts 70s conspiracy thriller, 2 parts David Lynch (mostly in the last act), and 1 part Steven Spielberg (mostly in the family dynamics and dialogue). Given it's 80s provenance - the novel was published then and the film is set in 1984 - this isn't all that surprising I suppose. But it does make for an odd experience overall, starting with the highly artificial and often stilted-seeming dialogue/acting. Maybe that's more typical of Baumbach's films than I'm remembering? In any case it was kind of offputting for much of the film - Adam Driver in particular just doesn't feel like a real person to me at all here, I always feel like I'm just watching him acting. Greta Gerwig comes off a little better, I think the particular kind of self-consciousness on display plays more to her strengths. But I got more used to the fakery as the film went on, and, not knowing the source or having read anything about it, I found the particular twists and moves in the story fairly entertaining. I suppose if one had to cast it as a single genre "black comedy" might be the best fit, though it wasn't "funny" really - slightly amusing at times, but more amusing to think about afterwards. I liked the look of the picture a lot though, again, it took some getting used to, and I think the artificiality in that area (lots of primary colors, very much an 80s gloss to everything though not as neon-heavy as a genre film from that time would have been) helped win me over to the fakery of the acting and situations eventually. I particularly love the dining scene just before the Toxic Event, where all of the veggies are an extremely precise and uniform color - orange carrots, deep green beans, bright yellow corn - that probably corresponds exactly to the colors on the cans they (presumably) came out of.
There is of course a lot here, content-wise - the alignment of Hitler, Elvis, car crashes in our cultural history, the notions of fakeness that keep coming up (Driver's character is a Hitler-studies prof who doesn't speak German; his family with Gerwig has a fake quality to it, and of course the supermarket, the canned goods, the processed everything, the notion that we're getting further away from what was once reality all the time - Ronald Reagan, that era's Trump). But I think even those who don't want to dive too much into what it all means may find it enjoyable enough just for it's ambition at trying to deal with all this detritus of 20th-century consumerist-authoritarian history. Or maybe not. In any case I was just pleased to see something that had the audacity to assume the audience weren't all total idiots, and might want to use their brains to do some of the work themselves. That's harder and harder to find at the multiplex these days here in cheeseland.
Anyway I'm glad I made the effort to go see it - even though the audience wasn't that expressive, this still felt like a film where seeing it in a cinema had a particular effect on me that wouldn't be duplicated at home alone. And now I want to read the book (which I own, along with several others from the author, all sitting, gathering dust, for 25+ years, sigh).