Michael Keaton …. Jonathan Rivers
Chandra West …. Anna Rivers
Deborah Kara Unger …. Sarah Tate
Ian McNeice …. Raymond Price
Sarah Strange …. Jane
Nicholas Elia …. Mike Rivers
Mike Dopud …. Detective Smits
Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Films present a White Noise (UK) and Brightlight Pictures production in association with Endgame Entertainment. Runtime: 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and language.
I did not see this movie in the theatres and after seeing in DVD I am glad I did not waste the money. The premise of the movie is that architect Jonathan Rivers, played by Michael Keaton, losses his wife. Rivers is approached by a man named Raymond Price (Ian McNeice) who claims to have been contacted by Jonathan’s wife. It turns out that Price messes around with something called Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP).
The theory behind EVP is that people who have passed on can communicate with the living with the white noise (thus the title of the movie) of various electronic instruments. After some reluctance Rivers goes and sees Price and hears his wife “talk” to him. Rivers soon becomes obsessed with EVP and the hope of hearing his wife again. Eventually he starts to hear other people talking to him, along with his wife, who seem to be asking for help.
The mystery grows when Price is killed and Rivers finds out that his wife and the other people he has helped have a connection with Price and EVP. Jonathan, along with his new friend and devoted EVP-fan Sarah Tate, try to unravel the mysterious messages they are getting. Rivers eventually thinks that he is getting messages from a kidnapped woman who is alive, whom he has a chance to save.
Well there are some serious plot holes and narrative problems with the movie. For one basing a movie solely around Michael Keaton is a big mistake. Only one or two good actors can take a movie on their shoulders on make it a good movie. Keaton is on screen for about 90% of the film and the supporting cast is minimally used. Even if the filmmakers had secured a superb actor who could have pulled it off (Tom Hanks maybe), the lack of supporting figures leaves many big holes.
Keaton’s character basically stops working, sleeping and eating. Not once does his ex-wife and mother of his child show any concern for him. Jonathan seemingly has no friends or work colleagues who wonder why Jonathan has gone AWOL from his life.
The two supporting characters who had potential to add to the plot, Sarah Tate and Raymond Price, were misused. Raymond was killed off very early and Sarah was just a week badly written character.
Where the writer really dropped the ball was the detective character. So let’s count the time Rivers is involved/connected to a crime. His wife dies mysteriously, he happens to find Price’s body, he rescues a child from an accident (the mother dies), he is staying in the same hotel room when Sarah jumps/falls from a balcony. The detective character only makes his appearance in the last 20 minutes of the movie.
Rivers and the police do not seem to even care about how his wife died, or who killed her. Again when Price dies no questions are asked about and why he died. It’s like a mystery story without a detective. Are the authorities not curious as to why Rivers keeps having people he knows die or get injured? If they just made the detective character a good foil or even friend to Keaton the movie would have made more sense and had more depth. The ending of the movie was very unsatisfying. There was no real explanation just that sometimes bad people try to make contact via EVP.
The thing that bothers me most about the movie is that there is potential for a good movie there. I don’t know if this is a case of a script getting re-written five times or Keaton and producers wanting the movie to centre around him at the expenses of everything else.
The movie can be at times quite dark, but that is intended for mood, and for the most part it works. There are no major problems with the video quality. Parts of the movie require Keaton’s character to stare at blurry TV screens to try and see EVP images. The scenes shown on these TV screens are pretty well done and seem to give a good indication of the confusion and uncertainty about the messages being sent from the dead.
The climatic scene is in dark, dank, wet building but there is a good blend of natural lighting and artificial lighting so that the shots aren’t too dark for the viewer to be straining but dark enough to give mood and ambience.
I screened the widescreen version (2.35:1) but it did not feel that the movie needed a widescreen format. It is offered in both widescreen and regular format and because the movie is more plot driven the format really doesn’t make a difference.
Like the video the plot of the movie offers challenges to the sound. Keaton is constantly listening to tapes and videos where he tries to decipher messages from beyond. Most of these messages are intertwined with screechy annoying white noise. The editors do a decent job at being able to mix these two to make a realistic sound that viewers can still understand.
The DVD comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and Spanish. I think this is fine, there is not much need for anything fancier.
The DVD did come with extras, but sadly I was disappointed with them. The best part are the deleted scenes. I always like it when deleted scenes are added because with director’s commentary you can get an insight into the editing and cutting of the movie. None of the scenes taken out really added to the movie so it’s not like any of them needed to be in a movie.
There were three short “documentaries” about EVP. One of them shows EVP geeks, and yes they are geeks, at a conference discussing EVP and why they are involved (obsessed would be a better word) with EVP. Most of them are just sad individuals who have not been able to deal with the grief of the loss of a family member. The second piece followed two EVP experts as they go to two locations and try to make contact with people from the dead. The last one tells viewers how they at home can make contact with the dead through EVP.
The big thing missing from all of these pieces was the other side of the argument. Whether that is the scientific side arguing against the legitimacy of EVP or perhaps a psychologist talking about the potential dangers of people getting involved in EVP (as they just cannot let go). I felt like after watching these pieces was that they were more of an ad for EVP with no true value as a debate or explanation of EVP.
One simple thing I always like that were absent were the cast files, where they list the actors/directors and you can see a short bio on them with their filmography. Being that most of the actors other then Keaton are not well known it would have been nice had this been added, as I kept saying “Where have I seen that person before?” I mean honestly how much space would this take on the DVD and how much extra work would it have been to put on. The answer not much. Perhaps that just shows the problem with this movie as a whole, the lack of extra effort.