Hulu presents us with another original offering with its new film, the Ultimate Playlist of Noise. It’s a teen show that promises the dramedy route of emotional poignancy between interludes of quirky comedy. At first glance, it slaps of that genre of romantic comedy where the sad boy gets the impossibly charming, out-of-his-league girl. However, The Ultimate Playlist of Noise is about more than teen romance – much more. The film holds more with movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It’s more about life, which includes a brief taste of romance. But it also encompasses what it means to exist, filled to the brim with seemingly inexpressible emotions.
The Ultimate Playlist of Noise starts with Marcus and his strange hobby. We’ve all got that one thing we’re good at, even if it’s not the most useful something in the world. For Marcus, that talent is making playlists. Name an event in your life, no matter how obscure or specific, and he can make a perfectly curated playlist from his vast library of music. For Marcus, music and just sound, in general, make up the sweetest part of life. A large part of his devotion to his collection of tunes comes from the fact it was handed down to him by his older brother, Alex, who tragically passed away.
Marcus is hit with a cold dose of reality when he experiences a seizure. He finds himself in the hospital with a tumor in his brain and a doctor’s recommendation for surgery – an operation that will leave him deaf. As he has a month left to hear, Marcus makes a bucket list of sounds – any sounds he thinks are kind of great – with the intention of creating a playlist or rather the ultimate playlist of noise. On his way to record the sounds, he meets with Wendy. She’s a musician and free spirit who Marcus also thinks is kind of great.
The Ultimate Playlist of Noise takes care to immerse us in a world where we can sympathize with Marcus’s situation. The sounds of everyday life that we take for granted are presented crisp and clean. This reminds us what it would mean to live a life without the breeze in the trees or our favorite song on the radio. Marcus’s grief over losing his hearing is echoed in his childhood grief of losing his older brother.
The playlist is a last hurrah for Marcus’s hearing, and with it are the grand expectations of something spectacular. But there is no spectacular beyond the charm of everyday magic. And Marcus still has to deal with the painful fact that he will lose something dear to him. Wendy is also forced to wrestle with her demons of being overlooked as an artist. And the growing fear that maybe she’ll never achieve her dreams. But in finding that life can be lived imperfectly – without our favorite song but instead with the memory of the joy it brought – is how Marcus and Wendy learn to move past their far-flung expectations and continue doing what they love.
During the planning stage of Marcus’s ultimate playlist, one of his friends asks why he’s recording the noises when he’ll be unable to hear them in a month. Marcus responds with a fact about Beethoven. Rhen follows up with the line, “Watching people listen to it will be the next best thing to hearing it.”