‘The Ultimate Playlist of Noise’ Review — A Sentimental Ride

You probably haven’t heard of this movie. It doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, it’s been excluded from most of the 2021 release calendars, and there has been very little marketing. However, this is a Hulu original film that premiered last week, and now that I have seen the film, I don’t know why.

Bennett Lasseter’s directorial debut is The Ultimate Playlist of Noise, a romantic drama starring Keean Johnson as Marcus, a teenager who must undergo brain surgery that would permanently remove his hearing. Before his surgery, he decides to go on a road trip and record many sounds to make “The Ultimate Playlist of Noise.”

When I first heard this film's premise, I was immediately reminded of the “musician-loses-his-hearing” plot from Sound of Metal and the “musician-with-cancer” plot from Clouds, two of my favorite films from 2020. And while this film may not be as good as those, this film offers a sentimental ride from start to finish.

This feels very much like a John Green YA novel adaptation, with certain scenes that feel like The Fault in Our Stars. Much of the film is a very cutesy love story between Marcus and Wendy (Madeline Brewer), another musician trying to escape from her abusive ex-boyfriend.

Fans of mawkish romance, complete with Hollywood-ized love scenes, are sure to smile at the film’s charming depiction of love between the two leads, who offer so much chemistry together. While Wendy has the quirks of the infamous “manic pixie dream girl,” she has more to her than meets the eye, and she’s a fascinating character portrayed wonderfully by Brewer.

But the main player in this film is Johnson, who portrays Marcus very well. There are many emotional scenes with the character, and Johnson portrays his character's pain very well. He sells this role, and the places they go with Marcus near the end is astonishing.

The film’s most glaring issue lies in the exposition. A lot of it is given through narration, which generally feels unnecessary, and none of the backstories in the first act is shown subtly.

Now, there are nice moments of show-don’t-tell, such as Marcus showering, which allows us to hear the sound of the water and Marcus watching his father smear butter on his toast and taking in the sound. However, much of the first act dumps the exposition on us as characters explicitly state how they feel.

Writer Mitchell Winkie does a good job for his first film, but he could have trusted his audience more with piecing information together for themselves rather than explicitly throwing the exposition at us.

Another minor flaw with the film is how formulaic it feels, but it does go in a wonderful, somewhat surprising direction during the final act. The adventures that Marcus and Wendy go through are very entertaining and charming.

This is an emotionally powerful film that may be a bit forgettable in the long run. Still, it is an easily digestible, beautiful movie that tugs at the heartstrings a few times in the final act due to how heartbreaking and authentic much of it feels.

It has very well-developed characters with emotional conflicts. It doesn’t resolve everything perfectly, but it remains a lovely movie. Don’t let the obscurity of this movie let it slip under your radar; if you’re in the mood for sappy romance and some emotional scenes, you can’t go wrong with this very likable movie.

Grade: ★★★✬☆ [7/10, B-]

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JONATHAN SIM

Film critic. Lover of Pixar, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Back to the Future, and Lord of the Rings. For business inquiries: jonathansim6703@gmail.com