Jack’s bumbling efforts to be an action hero can be hilarious, but White Noise is more than just a shrewd parody of academic bumptiousness and mega-budget movie-making. A sophisticated, thrillingly original, and sometimes bewildering sprawl of a film, it’s a sharp commentary on misinformation and consumerism, and it’s a postmodern adaptation of a postmodern novel. The characters speak in formal, epigrammatic dialogue (which takes some getting used to), the bright colours and artificiality recall Wes Anderson, and, rather than having one over-arching plot, White Noise has at least two of them: just as Jack gets the hang of being in a disaster movie, he’s shunted into a conspiracy thriller – and he’s comically inept in that, too. Still, despite all his highbrow and lowbrow game-playing, Baumbach ensures that the Gladneys are human enough to care about. Their world and their dialogue might be heightened, but their sense of dread and helplessness are poignantly real.
Beyond that… well, White Noise has so much crammed into its two-and-a-quarter hours that it will take multiple viewings to unpack it all. Luckily, it’s all so entertaining that the prospect of those multiple viewings is an enticing one indeed.
White Noise is released on Netflix in the US on 25 November.
Love film and TV? Join BBC Culture Film and TV Club on Facebook, a community for cinephiles all over the world.
And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called The Essential List. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday