Hulu’s ‘The Ultimate Playlist of Noise’ Checks Every Single Box – Review
The Ultimate Playlist of Noise, directed by Bennett Lasseter, follows Marcus (Keean Johnson), an audio-obsessed high schooler who has to undergo surgery that will render him deaf. Hoping to find peace with post-surgery life, he decides to create a playlist of sounds he records on his way to New York. Along the way, he faces troubles from his overprotective mother (Carrie Louis Putrello), a new friend in the unpredictable Wendy (Madeline Brewer), and learns the truth about his brother, Alex (Gordon Winarick).
It’s a story meant to touch hearts through Marcus’ struggles, stoke the flames of freedom through his unpredictable sidekick, and encourage its audience to stop and appreciate the little sounds in life. Personally, it only nailed the last of those three things.
For me, there’s something quite special about the chills running up my back at the sound of butter being spread on toast or the childlike grin across my face at the sound of rushing water. It’s more than just an appreciation for the symphonic sounds of living; it’s a fascination. So, being told I’d be reviewing a coming-of-age road trip movie (two of my favorite flavors) focused on the auditory pleasures of life was a review I couldn’t help but be excited for. Unfortunately, the auditory appreciation of life is the only thing I’ve taken away from this film.
As a fan of coming-of-age movies, I’m aware that there are many clichés within the genre, and I’m often one to overlook them. However, this movie doesn’t have a lot to offer besides those clichés, making the viewing experience feel more like checking off a list than naturally progressing. I felt like this movie wasn’t anything MORE than those clichés, offering the “manic-pixie-dream-girl” love interest, a “liar revealed” story beat and a medical emergency that was done well at times, but other times felt like nothing special. I was waiting for the discussion about how a scar on Marcus’ back made him unique, and the argument between Marcus and his Mom that would force him to say something he didn’t mean to. Even down to a scene showing a troubled Marcus in the restroom where I counted down the seconds until he started beating the heck out of the towel dispenser.
I just wish this story stood out more in a sea of these similar types of stories. Love, Simon was familiar, but there were creative choices within the clichés that made the characters loveable, and the story progression feel more natural. In this film, every character says what you think they’re going to say, from easy answers to metaphorical strings of wisdom that honestly made me chuckle. The performances are good for what they are, the characters are nothing more than their archetypes, and the soundtrack is as cute and quirky as you’d think.
Personally, the highlights of this film had to do with the sound design. The focus on these sounds that are so mundane in life made them feel otherworldly and beautiful at times. It reminded me why I stop and listen to that water running and butter being spread on toast. There’s such beauty in the world’s auditory landscape, and this film did a great job at capturing that. But, beyond its sound design, I felt this film had little to offer. If you watch the trailer, it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. As long as you don’t expect more, you should have a good time.