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'The Ultimate Playlist of Noise' Reminds Us to Listen and Live
January 15, 2021  | By David Hinckley
 


The Ultimate Playlist of Noise
 sounds like a rock 'n' roll blowout. In the end, it turns out to be less about music than a lot of other things, some of which it tackles better than others.

The Ultimate Playlist of Noise, which premieres Friday on Hulu, stars Keean Johnson as Marcus, a high school student whose obsession with music has made him the school's resident audio geek.

He specializes in producing "ultimate playlists" for every occasion. If you're entering the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest, Marcus can make you "The Ultimate Playlist For Eating 74 Hot Dogs." You get the idea.

Like a lot of music geeks or geeks in general, Marcus' social life is less successful than his mixtape skills.

Still, he doesn't seem unhappy. He has a likeable family and friends. Just no girlfriends.

Then he finds he has a bigger problem. After he's hospitalized from a seizure, he learns that to survive, he will need brain surgery that will render him deaf.

While this will shut off the most rewarding part of his life, he rebounds again. He will, he decides, spend his last hearing month recording 50 of his favorite sounds. Not songs, but sounds. The tide. The wind. Popcorn. A hundred soda cans opening at once.

The ultimate playlist of noise.

He figures out a way to record all this on a road trip from his Midwestern home to New York – where he also hopes to hear a long-lost song recorded by his older brother Alex. Marcus worships the memory of Alex, who died saving Marcus' life when their house caught on fire a dozen years earlier.

When Marcus tells his parents about the road trip, leaving out the Alex part, they say he can't do it. He does it anyway, and before he passes the city limits of his hometown, he runs into an aspiring female singer named Wendy (Madeline Brewer) that he briefly saw perform in a club and whose voice he thought was awesome.

What a coincidence.

Turns out she also wants to go to New York, seeking her big break as a pop star. As that might suggest, she's a cross between a free spirit and a wild child.

Suddenly this road trip has gotten a whole lot more interesting.

It doesn't take a psychic to predict Marcus and Wendy will bond and that each will learn important life lessons from the other.

So the plotline in The Ultimate Playlist of Noise holds few surprises until the kids get to New York, where Marcus meets Dennis (Oliver Cooper), who years earlier played in Alex's band and tells Marcus that Alex (Gordon Winarick) was not exactly who Marcus thought. This does not make Marcus happy.

Almost simultaneously, we learn Wendy has secrets, too, and may not be as carefree as she seems.

Suddenly these two fragile dreams have crashed to the pavement and shattered, except we know from the earlier tone of the movie that they will not end here.

Before it does end, it gets a little teary. More than a little teary. It also doesn't wind up exactly where the viewer may think it's going to end.

But The Ultimate Playlist Of Noise doesn't abandon its underlying tone of celebration, suggesting we should all appreciate the gifts of life and the value of everyday pleasures.

It's a road picture, it's a picture about family bonds and truth, and it's a picture about chasing your dream. Oh yeah, and it has music. It's not the ultimate movie about any one of those things, but it's not a bad mixtape.

 
 
 
 
 
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