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Review: Back to DeLillo’s doomed future in ‘White Noise’

Source image: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/review-back-delillos-doomed-future-white-noise-93819548

Like Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel, the heart of Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise” is in the supermarket. There, in the gleaming aisles of neatly arranged cereal boxes and produce, DeLillo found America’s church: an over-lit spectacle of abundance and artificiality. “Here we don’t die,” says Murray, the college professor, to the book’s protagonist, Jack, “we shop.”

Baumbach’s film is faithfully tuned to the buzzing dread and strange surrealism of DeLillo’s postmodern masterwork. This is true not only in the aisles of the A&P, where Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) and his wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig), contentedly stroll. Baumbach has also sprinkled grocery store products throughout the film. In the background of dramatic scenes sit Pringles, Sanka, Yoohoo! and other name brands like bread-crumb reminders of all that the supermarket represents: Inevitable doom covered up by linoleum floors and Tony the Tiger.

“White Noise,” which opens in theaters Friday and debuts Dec. 30 on Netflix, is a big swing at one of the great late-20th-century books. Both apocalyptic and comic, DeLillo’s eighth novel has proven acutely prophetic in its exhumation of the everyday dreams and dangers of American life. So much so that “White Noise,” as a story about an “airborne toxic event” filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, could risk being almost too dead on.

But DeLillo’s rhythm and vernacular, here energetically adapted by Baumbach, remains intoxicatingly singular. Realism was never the point, and Baumbach’s lively, stylish “White Noise” wholeheartedly embraces the book’s dizzying, dense intensity. Baumbach, the New York filmmaker of “Marriage Story” and “The Squid and the Whale,” has usually mined his own life for drama, with the exception of a previous adaptation with Wes Anderson. (“Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which likewise culminated with dancing in shiny supermarket aisles. ) “White Noise,” made with a bigger budget and a touch of Spielbergian spectacle, is often riveting large-canvas filmmaking while still idiosyncratically personal. Crammed full with ideas and a giddy gloom, “White Noise” is a doomsday film too enthralled by the toxic absurdities of modern life to be dragged down by them.

“White Noise” begins in a talky, theatrical register. Baumbach is a natural when it comes to manic, mannered neurosis but less sure-footed in translating DeLillo’s darker, conspiratorial tones. It makes an initially awkward, overly frenetic fit here, though it’s understandable to want to stuff as much of DiLillo’s dialogue in as possible. And the antic style serves a purpose: Jack, a professor of Nazism at a Midwest college, has been speeding through life in a denial of his fate, ironically insulated even by his Hitler studies. But there are cracks in his comfortable suburban bubble. One daughter finds in the house an amber pill jar for a mysterious, unknown drug called Dylar.

“White Noise” surveys the embedded toxicity in American society. There’s the insidious creep of prescription medication. The kids — they have a houseful from their multiple previous marriages plus one of their own — flock to watch a plane crash on the television. At the College-on-the-Hill, Jack and Prof. Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle) debate in a back-and-forth lecture the similar crowd-gathering thrall of Hitler and Elvis, a scene crosscut with a catastrophic accident between a chemical-carrying truck and a speeding locomotive.

As a dark, expanding cloud forms overhead the accident, its categorization quickly changes. Is it a plume? Is it billowing? The concern filters through the community and the Gladney home. Driver plays Jack with a sardonic, overconfident aplomb and, eventually, dawning existential terror. After first dismissing the threat, Jack is forced to evacuate the family, and the scenes of the station wagon careening through the chaos, with an amorphous doom overhead, are as vivid as anything Baumbach has shot.

After the “toxic airborne event,” Jack is newly awoken to the closeness of his own death, and maybe those around him. The source of that Dylar is another looming poison, a plotline that reaches an emotional climax in Babette’s teary confession, played movingly by Gerwig. The second half of “White Noise,” perhaps like the book, struggles to match its memorable first half. And in very ‘80s environs, Baumbach’s film always remains — purposefully, I think — a self-conscious work of literature adaptation, juggling big themes and highly literate dialogue with a screwball touch. It makes for a heady concoction too constantly interesting to ever be boring.

“White Noise,” a Netflix release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for brief violence and language. Running time: 136 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/review-back-delillos-doomed-future-white-noise-93819548

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Book Review: Explosive debut novel ‘Fireworks Every Night’ is a bittersweet celebration of survival

“Fireworks Every Night” by Beth Raymer (Random House)

C.C.’s isn’t your typical rags-to-riches story. She remembers growing up in a single-wide with her older sister, stay-at-home mom and car-salesman dad. But she also remembers when they moved to Florida after everything in the car lot burned down — including their home — launching them into a comfortable middle-class life and a fresh start in a state her dad proudly brags has fireworks every night.

“Fireworks Every Night” is Beth Raymer’s debut novel, but not her first book. Following her 2010 memoir “Lay the Favorite,” she borrows from her life to create a deeply personal story of a dysfunctional family.

Having grown up in West Palm Beach, Raymer puts her local knowledge to use as her protagonist — a resident of Loxahatchee, Florida — rattles off the schools she plays basketball against, and how worn down or rich they are. She’s familiar with the Baker Act and who’s been institutionalized through its use. She knows all the neighborhoods and has eaten at Benny’s on the Beach.

If the gorgeous cover designed by Elizabeth A. D. Eno isn’t enough to draw you in, let the heartbreakingly determined main character and the promise of an earnest look at the skeletons in her closet convince you.

In adulthood, C.C. is engaged to a well-educated and absurdly wealthy man — a far cry from the childhood in which she learns what it means to fight for survival. Hopping between the two timelines in stark juxtaposition, the full picture of C.C.’s life emerges.

As kid-C.C.’s home life comes completely unraveled, the story morphs from tragicomedy to horror, revealing how her family fell apart and left her sister struggling with addiction, her mother chronically absent and her father homeless. All the while, adult-C.C. is juggling a host of modern stresses: the viability of having children, climate change, living in a world that makes it far too easy to compare yourself with the 8 billion others who inhabit it, and reconciling your self-worth with the balance in your bank account.

Raymer launches addiction, homelessness, neglect and poverty shamelessly into the lexicon, treating C.C. and her family with nothing less than respect.

A nature motif runs throughout the story, blurring the line between animal and human and calling into question what is “natural” in a world so unnaturally shaped by people. Animals play a quiet but pivotal role throughout “Fireworks Every Night,” shaping Raymer’s engrossing novel into a bittersweet celebration of the scrappy Americans who are finding a way to survive even as the elite push humans and animals alike out of their habitats.

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Book Review: ‘White House by the Sea’ tells storied Kennedy tale through family’s compound

“White House By the Sea: A Century of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port” by Kate Storey (Scribner)

The history of the Kennedy family is so well-chronicled — from the modern Camelot legend surrounding John F. Kennedy’s presidency to the series of tragedies that marked the family throughout the 20tb century — that it’s hard to imagine new ways to tell their story.

But Kate Storey does just that in “White House By the Sea: A Century of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port” — revisiting the family’s history through their time at the famed Kennedy compound on Cape Cod.

Storey, the senior features editor at Rolling Stone magazine, weaves a fascinating narrative about the Kennedy family using Hyannis Port as the backdrop. The book traces the family’s ties to the compound back to the 1920s, when Joseph Kennedy bought Malcolm Cottage, what became known as the Big House.

Many of the stories feel so familiar, from Joseph Kennedy Jr.’s death during World War II to John F. Kennedy Jr.’s fatal plane crash in 1999. The compound was also the setting for much happier occasions, including John F. Kennedy’s presidential acceptance speech and the wedding of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.

Storey gives them a fresh look with new details and well-sourced reporting that opens up a traditionally private community — “what’s left of Camelot,” she writes.

Storey’s research gives the book a more intimate feel than many other histories of the Kennedy family, introducing figures that aren’t as well-known but played a key role in the family and its compound. Fittingly, it’s written in an accessible way that makes the book a welcome beach read.

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Fox News unveils primetime lineup with Jesse Watters in Tucker Carlson’s former time slot

Jesse Watters will fill the Fox News Channel time slot left vacant by the firing of Tucker Carlson, part of a dramatic revamp of the network’s evening lineup announced on Monday.

Greg Gutfeld’s late-night show that combines news and comedy will move up an hour to start at 10 p.m. Eastern, displacing Laura Ingraham. She’ll shift to 7 p.m., the hour that Watters has occupied. Sean Hannity will stay in his 9 p.m. time slot, Fox said. The new lineup debuts on July 17.

The announcement comes roughly two months after Fox News fired Carlson shortly after settling a defamation lawsuit with the voting machine maker Dominion Voting Systems on the eve of trial. The case, which centered on the network’s airing of false claims following the 2020 presidential election, exposed a trove of private messages sent between Fox hosts, including Hannity and Carlson, in which they criticized peers at the network.

Carlson has since begun doing occasional monologues for Twitter, although Fox is attempting to get him to stop the broadcasts.

Fox has seen its ratings tumble since Carlson exited. Carlson averaged 3.25 million viewers at 8 p.m. in the first three months of the year, and the string of guest hosts who replaced him the past two months usually reached under 2 million, making the network’s command more tenuous.

The lineup change signals that Fox is doubling down on its opinionated evening programming strategy, with three sharp-tongued men filling the prime-time hours. It’s something of a triumphant return for Watters, who got his start at the 8 p.m. hour, doing man-in-the-street interviews and other features for Bill O’Reilly before O’Reilly’s firing in 2017.

It also means double duty for Gutfeld and Watters, who are both panelists on “The Five” and will continue there. The late-afternoon political talk show has become Fox’s most popular program.

Keeping that show’s chemistry intact appeared to be a priority for Fox. Gutfeld said in a Wall Street Journal interview last week that he would no longer appear on “The Five” or do his late-night show if he were to get Carlson’s old time slot.

Trace Gallagher, who has worked at Fox since the network began in 1996, will host a news show at 11 p.m., filling the hour that Gutfeld is leaving vacant.

“The unique perspectives of Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, Sean Hannity, and Greg Gutfeld will ensure our viewers have access to unrivaled coverage from our best-in-class team for years to come,” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement.

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