While interviewing Tone-Deaf director, Richard Bates Jr. he stated, quite frankly that “everyone is full of shit”. He’s correct, of course. All of us, at one time or another, have believed our opinion is THE opinion, even if we know, deep down, the world’s a messy, idiotic place and there’s no way our clever-sounding, but ultimately not supportable bollocks, is the whole story.
I state this upfront because if you either don’t like this review or don’t like this movie, remember, it doesn’t fucking matter.
Currently, while I hate to bring marketing created demographics (grrrrr) into it, as a Gen X’er, or, if you must a Xennial (fuck off!), it can feel that the two generations either side of us, the Baby Boomers and the Millennials are taking everything so seriously and getting so outraged by everything that they’re in danger of devouring each other whole. While the silver lining to all of it is the general feeling that people give more of a crap about stuff than they did previously (and I am not sure that’s true, whatever the perception), being caught in the social media or dinner party crossfire between the “obnoxiously woke” and the “will you please all just die and let someone else have a go” generations is tiring, stressful and utterly bemusing.
Into this fray steps Tone-Deaf, a gonzo and hilariously gruesome, horror comedy for which genre definitions mostly aren’t sufficient. It tells the story of widower, baby boomer, Harvey (Robert Patrick) who has decided, quite reasonably, that the only thing he hasn’t experienced yet is the thrill of killing someone and frustrated, entitled, millennial Olive (Amanda Crew) who, having lost her job and her boyfriend in the space of a few hours, is convinced by friends to rent an Air BnB somewhere and get out of the city for a bit. Harvey has just the house for Olive and she’s the perfect person to help him fulfill the last item on his bucket list.
The story then rockets off on lots of weird little adventures, tossing bizarre dream sequences and disturbing flashbacks into the mix. It has a dark and surreal sense of humour which is deployed both in its, a little on-the-nose, satire and in its violence, which continues the gruesome, playful tradition of something like a Coen Brothers film or American Psycho.
I am sure some viewers may find it a little smug, or they might find it too brazen in its malevolent glee for massacring and its blatant disregard for anyone’s feelings - the film cares what you think or what you’re “offended” by about as much as it cares what genre box you try and squeeze it into - but, to use a musical metaphor, find the right key and you’ll be humming along in no time. It’s a weird, wonderful, stream of consciousness romp that doesn’t mind who it kicks in the nuts as it scampers, like a mischievous cartoon mouse, through the legs of the single minded cartoon cat, just before it takes a frying pan to the mooey.
The film’s main ace up its sleeve is the casting of Robert Patrick. It’s one of those head slapping, why didn’t I think of that, castings that turns out to be absolutely perfect. While the internet would almost certainly start generating ironic memes and shitting their collective skinny jeans if walking cliche Nicolas Cage was cast in this film, Robert Patrick reminds us why great acting, understanding the material and trusting a director will always win out over the “oh my god did you see that crazy choice Cage made in that one scene?!”
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the odd weird choice Cage might make in this film or that - watch The Trust, for the love of all that’s gracious, watch The Trust - or that Nic Cage can control how the internet pounces on his performances occasionally, it’s just that the mark of great acting is not, out of nowhere, screaming a word in a weird voice or rolling your eyes, but rather building an engaging character and, no matter how far out that character goes, grounding it in a reality and personality the audience can recognise. Patrick does this and if there’s any justice in the world this movie will gain the sort of cult following Mandy found for his appearance alone.
While the rest of the supporting cast are strong, the only other “lead” the movie has is Amanda Crew. I confess I haven’t watched Silicon Valley, that one guy, with the hair, comes across as a complete and total twat and the Verizon Ad guy needs a good throat punching but I understand that Amanda Crew is one of the stars of that show. While I can’t compare Olive to the character she plays on that show, I can say that, as Olive, she is utterly convincing. She gets just the right side of annoying and self-centered while keeping Olive as human, empathetic and understandable. Both actors could’ve played to the extremes of their characters and while those elements are definitely there in the script on occasions, the actors know better than to go fully one way or the other.
Lastly the film is shot well, looks great, has a good soundtrack and whatever you ultimately think either way, it marches and murders to the beat of its own drum.
It’s good to see a few articles and now movies address the current generational situation that seems to be crash-bang-walloping out of social media feeds all over the place. Like I said at the start, sometimes it can be tricky, wedged in the middle, to make sense of it all and clearly voice a sane opinion without bothering someone or it being drowned out by the endless din of self-righteous claptrap. The purpose of entertainment can often be to give voice to that feeling and Tone-Deaf certainly goes some way to addressing it. Ultimately though, as the Socratic paradox goes, the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing, or as Richard Bates Jr. has re-coined it “everyone is full of shit.”
TONE-DEAF will be in theaters and On Demand on August 23, 2019.
Listen to my interview with Director Richard Bates Jr. HERE