★★ / ★★★★
When David (Tim Robbins) recently moved to New York City, he found its various noises sort of endearing, a reminder that he was a part of something that was alive and thriving. But something changed. Lately, David is being driven nuts by car alarms and he is angry that their owners cannot be bothered to shut them off. Feeling like he must do something to incite change, he creates an alter ego known as The Rectifier, a man who smashes car windows and disables the nuisance that plagues neighborhoods.
“Noise,” written and directed by Henry Bean, should be lauded for being unafraid to assault the audience with all sorts of unwelcome noises: from car alarms, construction drilling, rumbling trucks, to loose manholes. A lot of us have been woken up in the middle of the night by an alarm of some sort and it would feel like years until its owner would turn it off. Afterwards, being a light sleeper, I would find it almost impossible to go back to sleep.
In a lot of ways, it is easy to relate to David. Why aren’t people more responsible and more considerate of others? The picture manages to move forward slightly by raising the stakes and allowing David to get involved with the police. There is humor in the exchanges because there is truth in the script, like the cops tending to arrive when the problem is no longer there.
However, the middle section is unbearably stagnant. It sheds its edgy black comedy in place of elements composed of typical family drama so that the audience are likely to feel sympathy for David. It need not go in that direction. It feels like an easy way, not to mention cheap, to force the character to be more relatable. As his marriage crumbles and is fired from his job, I found it difficult to really feel anything for him because the forced conflicts come across as phony. I was more curious about his relationship with the city that never sleeps as a single man, no longer having the excuse involving his wife and daughter not being able to sleep.
Later, David met an attractive woman named Ekaterina (Margarita Levieva), a potentially interesting romantic interest that shifts the film’s focus away from David’s war with noise. While they try to pass a car alarm initiative that the mayor (William Hurt) is likely to ignore, much of their interactions are of sexual or intimate nature. I wondered if the material means to suggest that the root of David’s annoyance is really of a sexual nature. After all, the issue of impotence is mentioned earlier and David seems more calm after he and Ekaterina are able to satisfy their physical needs.
However, outside the bedroom, the two characters are not as interesting. The screenplay is not successful in showing us that she is a good enough reason for him to abstain from his past criminal behavior.
“Noise” is ambitious with its humor. It forces us to sit through all sorts of commotions but its subplots are unfocused at times to the point of boredom. David is an interesting specimen because he views himself as a savior, so I think the character deserves more than looking and acting irrational.