AFI Dallas 08: Noise

AFI Dallas Film Festival

Al Gore has global warming. Rev. Jim Phelps has homosexuality. Uwe Boll has film critics.

Everyone needs something to fight whether it matters to the rest of the world or not and director Henry Bean takes noise pollution to task in his sarcastic, clever, witty David and Goliath comedy Noise, the second entry in his self-titled “Fanatic” trilogy.

Tim Robbins plays David Owen, an upper class businessman living in what seems like the loudest part of New York City. He gets tired of hearing car alarms at all hours of the day and night and decides to do something about it since no one else will. He becomes “The Rectifier,” a self-styled vigilante who breaks into cars to shut off their alarms after they sound past the 3-minute ring limit. Of course, while he sees himself as standing up for his personal space, the Mayor, played by William Hurt, sees him only as a series of misdemeanors that will lead to 78 years of jail time, even if the public has taken the Rectifier’s side.

Eventually, the Rectifier is outed by Ekaterina Filippovna, played by Margarita Levieva, after he leaves one of his calling cards behind. Instead of taking him to the press or blackmailing him, she simply wants to know why he does it. To David, it’s not an issue of following the law or reducing noise pollution. It’s simply a matter of courtesy. He can’t just close the window to block out the noise because he wants to keep the window open.

Such a massive fanatical undertaking doesn’t come without a price. He puts his job, his home and even his family on the line as they try to put up with his cause. To him, adjusting to someone’s else convenience is his inconvenience.

“What if Jonas Salk had that attitude towards polio?” David tells his wife Helen played by Bridget Moynahan. “Eh, it’s just polio. Just adjust to it.”

The script written by Bean has a great sarcastic attitude filled with funny lines and a great sense of humor. Just about everyone in the film has a chance to grab a laugh and 9.5 times out of ten, they hit their mark.

Robbins is also the perfect person to play David since both have a devoted passion to noteworthy causes. He clearly adapts his own experiences as an outspoken opponent of the war and the Bush Administration to his own character. David is a passionate pit bull who latches on to a cause he believes is right and won’t let go no matter how hard someone tries to shake him off or a fanatical man obsessed and it’s hard not to root for him.

Meanwhile, Hurt comes off as a little too much like a cartoon villain, a stubborn, New York mayor who only cares less about his constituents even if they don’t side with him. A film like this needs a big asshole to counter Robbins’ fanaticism as a villain, but it doesn’t feel as real or believable as it could be. It doesn’t detract the audience for rooting for Robbins and against Hurt since most of the Mayor’s moves are done through government loopholes and behind the scenes dealings as Robbins and Levieva try to fight the noise through more legal and less misdemeanor means.

The story comes with a lot of curves that work very well to keep the film interesting. As Robbins’ Rectifier persona begins to develop and his family begins to slip out of his grasp, you begin to wonder if Robbins is right or just a fanatic who is letting things get to him. Either way it’s a story anyone can relate to whether you think he should champion his cause or not giving it an everyman quality that so few comedies of its kind seem to have.

Grade: B+

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