“Background noise” it feels like some kind of risky experiment. Certainly the fact that Netflix has been encouraged to give money to a renowned filmmaker like Noah Baumbach, to adapt a supposedly unadaptable novel to the cinema, I am very pleased. How we would love for all production companies to take such a risk with all filmmakers! But sometimes such risks don’t pay dividends, and that’s the case with “Background Noise,” a film that works in parts but never quite feels like a cohesive, or even coherent, product. Which is a shame, because I will always prefer a risky but failed movie, over a well made, but totally predictable product.
Our protagonist is Jack (Adam Driver), a university professor specializing in Hitler Studies, who lives with his wife, the yoga teacher Babette (Greta Gerwig), in a seemingly ordinary suburb. They have several children, most from previous marriages, and spend their lives ignoring serious signs or impending trouble, always concentrating on the details rather than the big picture.
The film, then, is divided into three acts. The first is a kind of satire on academic life, where we see professors competing with each other, students listening to them in a way no student has ever listened to a professor in real life, and professors bent on specializing in unbelievably, well, subjects. specific. The second feels more like a dark parody of disaster movies, focused on an event called “The Toxic Air Event.” And the third focuses on satirizing the world of medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. It is this last act, too, that ended up losing me.
It is clear, then, that “Background noise” it ends up feeling like three mismatched stories, each concentrating on telling us something about a specific topic. The first act, for example, isn’t all bad, but it doesn’t seem to get you anywhere—it does serve to establish the characters and their interests well, and it’s certainly entertaining, but it lacks urgency or anything that really motivates one. to be interested in what happens on the screen. The second, rather, is the one that works best—it helps to better develop our protagonists, and gives them a clear conflict, which forces them to act in very specific ways. In addition, it is the one that gives us some of the most impressive images of the film.
The third, however, does not work very well. Yes, it ends in a bizarre way, with an unexpected musical number, but other than that, it drags on too long, depending a lot on poor “investigation” scenes, and on the exploration of a character that, during the first two acts, I don’t get to understand. highlight. It is difficult to write about the third act of “Background noise” not including spoilersSo I’ll just say that if the movie didn’t win you over in its first two-thirds of the plot, it definitely won’t in its last. A better link to these three acts would not have resolved everyone the problems of the film, but at least it would have helped somewhat.
And regarding the dialogues… well, let’s say that Baumbach has tried to transfer the original prose of the novel as faithfully as possible to the cinema, with quite desperate results. The characters in “Background Noise” speak in a very specific way; extremely flowery and formal, as if they are aware that they are in a movie, but without actually breaking the fourth wall. It’s all very theatrical, which surely works fine in a book, but in a movie, it results in an irritating experience, where all the characters—adults, children, men, women, and so on—talk. exactly the same, as if they were exposing to an audience. It’s maddening, and while I understand that Baumbach wanted to adapt the book faithfully, I think he should have made more changes to the text to make it digestible.
“Background noise” stars a talented cast who do what they can with the material. Most tend to overdo it a bit, but overall, they help the characters not feel so false, and in fact they deliver us hilarious moments. Adam Driver it is dry enough as Jack; Don Cheadle stands out as a professor obsessed with majoring in Elvis Studies(!), and Greta GerwigUnfortunately, it fails to make Babette a particularly memorable character. The children are all fine —even though they don’t speak or behave like real children—, although the talented Raffey Cassidywhom you have surely seen before in productions such as “Tomorrowland” or “The murder of the sacred deer.”
I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy “Background Noise”. Again: it feels like a failed experiment, as if Baumbach had said, “what if I try to adapt this supposedly unadaptable novel extremely faithfully?” He took a risk, which is admirable, and while I don’t think it worked out very well for him in this case, I can at least understand why he did it. And it’s not that the film lacks interesting elements: the topics covered are interesting, most of the cast do a good job with their characters, and the final dance sequence is certainly memorable. But “Background Noise” never quite works as a whole, making one remember the occasional funny, entertaining or shocking moment, but not the story in general.