White Noise--Noah Baumbach's adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel begins on the quaint campus of College-On-the-Hill, where mortality-haunted "Hitler Studies" prof Adam Driver lives with his wife Greta Gerwig and their talkative but deadpan blended brood. His wife's pill usage and other academic-life worries are intruded upon when the collision of a train with a tanker truck and the resulting "Airborne Toxic Event" requires the family and their neighbors to flee and take refuge in summer camps, Chinese restaurants and other makeshift shelters. Baumbach's style here seems to pay homage to other directors; the early college scenes suggest the twee formality of Wes Anderson, there's a big dose of the Close Encounters-era Spielberg later on, a hint of Jason Reitman's Juno here or of David Byrne's True Stories there.
The movie feels large and consequential; there are many funny and fascinating passages, and the '80s period look is colorful. But while the story's elusive ambiguities are intriguing for a while, they gradually start to get irritating, particularly when it moves from the epic-scale first half to the more personal and anticlimactic second half. Still, the cast is strong, Driver is paradoxically both commanding and neurotic in the lead, and Gerwig is a doleful, troublingly erotic presence--at one point Driver's colleague Don Cheadle observes, accurately, that she has "important hair."
The Banshees of Inisherin--Colm and Padraic live on a bleak island off the coast of Ireland in the 1920s. Artillery fire from the Irish Civil War can be heard from the mainland, but the islanders pay it less attention than they do the trouble that arises when Colm, a fiddler played by Brendan Gleeson, abruptly stops speaking to and socializing with his lifelong companion Padraic, a dairyman played by Colin Farrell. Colm admits, bluntly but without rancor, that he simply finds Padraic intolerably dull, and doesn't want to waste any more time drinking and talking with him when he could be working on his music. He'll still chat amiably with the other islanders, but something about the very presence of the dear, baffled Padraic seems symbolic to Colm of his life being squandered on triviality, and he'll go to extremes to reject it.
The great Martin McDonagh was really on to something here; it starts out as one of the most original, grimly funny and painful takes on friendship in some time. But as the conflict escalates, it's as if the writer-director remembers he's the Martin McDonagh of films like In Bruges and plays like A Behanding in Spokane, and feels obligated to take the story in a gruesome, Grand Guignol direction. It throws the balance off here as it didn't with In Bruges; it sours the movie's comic side and feels psychologically reductive to its tragic side.
Even so, Gleeson and (especially) Farrell are both sublime, as are Kerry Condon as Padraic's sensible sister and Barry Keoghan as his hapless backup friend. McDonagh narrowly missed making a masterpiece here, but these performances are not to be missed.