In the techie ghost story "White Noise," Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, an architect whose perfect life is disrupted when his wife, Anna (Chandra West), a "bestselling writer" of "international renown" and preternatural hotness, disappears. Though, should any actual bestselling writers of international renown happen to wander into the audience during the movie's early scenes by mistake, they might be dismayed at the sight of Anna swanning around the master suite of her suburban McMansion in a lacy lilac half-slip girlishly clutching a positive pregnancy test to her bosom. Anyway, such is their love and reliance on state-of-the-art communication equipment that soon after her death, Anna starts trying to touch base with her husband from beyond the grave. Before that happens, however, director Geoffrey Sax and screenwriter Niall Johnson treat us to the full measure of their up-market connubial bliss, presumably on the assumption that their surfeit of contentment will make Jonathan's loss seem that much sadder.
Fat chance. "White Noise" begins as an overlit paean to trophy-wifedom and "lifestyle" living, then practically gets down on its knees and begs to be called "a stylish thriller." The movie straitjackets Keaton into a humorless, table-pounding role, preferring to let his real estate holdings, art collection and quietly expensive clothes do the talking. Before Anna's disappearance, the family inhabited a universe of such plastic perfection one could be forgiven for thinking Sax actually wants the audience to wish them ill -- which would have been a far more interesting gambit than the one he actually goes for. In the place of recognizable humans, we get Anna, the kind of writer whose milky mug commands a full-page author photo on the back jacket of her new book; Jonathan, the kind of architect who walks very fast through his epically hip "raw" office space; and Mike (Nicholas Elia), the son, shunted between his mother Jane's (Sarah Strange) house and his father's cul-de-sac fantasy land (which not for nothing has white lilies embossed on the glass door), whose life seems to consist entirely of being cute, perspicacious and placidly undemanding. The Riverses plainly "have it all" -- except, notably, decent reception -- if "having it all" means living as though life were the joint marketing venture of Design Within Reach, the Sharper Image and a consortium of Beverly Hills plastic surgeons. All this, and they want sympathy too?