January in movie world isn't quite the same as January in the real world. In the real world, people vow to make changes for themselves to make the new year the best year of their life. In movie world, January is a cinematic landfill. A dumping ground where the studios haul out all of the movies they are unsure of, and drop them off in theaters. So when I originally saw the trailer for White Noise, I was extremely compelled. It looked like an original premise that could turn into a nice thriller. Then I saw it was being released in January, and the apprehension set it. As it turns out, the apprehension proved true in this incredibly slow, poorly made flick.
The good parts of this movie are few and far between, so I'll mention them first. The notion of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) is what sucked me in to this movie. I've never heard of this before, and it sounded fairly interesting, and surely movie-worthy. The actual concept of EVP is conveyed very nicely in this movie, and although I'm not quite sure I believe in the actual EVP, the portrayal of EVP in the movie is quite believable. There is sort of a nice ending here, with a little twist that was kind of cool, and...well, that's about it for the good stuff.
The movie starts out in the happy little home of Jonathan Rivers (Keaton). He's a successful architect with a beautiful wife (West), who bears somewhat of a resemblance to Rebecca Romijn, in my opinion. He has a well-mannered son (Elia) as well, and besides the fact that he shares custody of his son with his ex-wife, it seems like Mr. Rivers has a happy little life. But, as they say, all good things weren't made to last, and this maxim holds true when his wife tragically dies. Then, one day, he finds a man following him and he turns out to be this expert/pseudo seance leader Raymond Price (McNeice) who tells him he can communicate with his wife via static through radio or television. Creepy, eh? But Raymond dies, mysteriously of course, leaving him and another woman who Raymond has helped, Sarah (Unger) to unravel all this mysterious stuff.
As the opening credit sequence unfolded, I realized that besides Michael Keaton, I hadn't heard of a single soul in the entire production. Sure, Deborah Kara Unger was the chick with the red bra in The Game, but it wasn't like I knew what her name was... The main two names I didn't recognize were the screenwriter, Niall Johnson and director Geoffrey Sax. This was the main problem here. The script, while filled with some nice dramatic/thriller elements, was as slow as cancer and about as scary as my big toe. The pacing here was horrible. It takes us a good 10 minutes or so before we finally actually get to the part where we find out Rivers' wife Anna has died, even though you could figure it out after about 2 minutes or so. The movie is listed at 101 minutes, but it felt like 1001 minutes. I was jonesing for a smoke and a beer throughout most of this movie, because it seemed like it would never end. The ending I liked, somewhat, but it still took so frickin long to get there. Johnson's dialogue is sufficient, though not great, but he still didn't utilize the premise of EVP as well as he could have. It had a lot of potential, with many different ways of using the premise, I just thought it wasn't used as good as it could've been used.
Director Geoffrey Sax is making his feature-film debut here, although he has worked in many a television productions. It appears that he wants to develop his own trademark in this movie. These aren't uncommon, by any means. Wes Anderson (See: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) ends all of his films with a slow-motion shot. Andrew Niccol's films (See: Gattaca, The Truman Show, S1m0ne) deal with the human response to technology. Hell, even Oliver Stone casts John C. McGinley in every single one of his films. Sax appears to want his trademark to be that he uses a crane shot (a shot with the camera aiming down, placed high above on a crane) to start every scene. Wow. That will secure your place in the annals of film history, you dolt. That annoyance aside, the rest of Sax's work isn't anything to write home about. He gets either too little or too much from his actors and he gives us virtually no sense of location (a.k.a. this movie takes place Anywhere, U.S.A.). He keeps the slow trend going with a lot of very very slow pans and zooms, but that isn't exactly a good thing.
Michael Keaton has been over the hill for quite awhile, and this movie won't change that. His acting is shoddy, at best, with some absolutely horrible tendencies to over-extend himself in some spots. His supporting cast doesn't support very well because their parts are practically reduced to cameos, and when they are on screen, they don't do much at all. Besides that, this seemed like a cast of look-alikes, with West and Ian McNeice bearing a striking, yet more overweight resemblance to Brendan Gleeson. It's almost as if they couldn't get the cast they wanted, so they got people that looked like the ones they wanted...
White Noise is about as entertaining as doing what Keaton does in the movie: look at a static television screen or a tuned-out radio. It's a yawn-fest that will make you beg for the ending, only to be strung along some more. This is a total look-alike movie. Chandra West looks like Rebecca Romijn, but isn't. Ian McNeice looks like Brendan Gleeson, but isn't. The trailer made it look like this would be a good movie but...