×

SXSW Film Review: ‘Tone-Deaf’

Bratty Millennial and ornery boomer square off in a cartoonishly satirical horror-comedy that's not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

Director:
Richard Bates, Jr.
With:
Robert Patrick, Amanda Crew, Hayley Marie Norman, Johnny Pemberton, Nancy Linehan Charles, AnnaLynne McCord, Tate Ellington, Ray Wise, Kim Delaney.

1 hour 27 minutes

Intergenerational conflict is only likely to get worse as Millennials grasp a problem-filled future for which they already blame baby boomers, while boomers hone their dislike of what many perceive as a generation of brats. No doubt many interesting films will riff on that theme. But their number won’t include “Tone-Deaf,” a horror-comedy caricature in which a malevolent old fogey squares off against an entitled young princess. Too cartoonishly broad to qualify as black comedy, and with no one to root for, this disappointing latest from Richard Bates Jr. (“Excision,” “Suburban Gothic”) isn’t funny, suspenseful or outrageous enough to satisfy genre fans. Others are unlikely to bite when Saban Films does a day-and-date release later this year.

Bates’ script starts with a running gag that elicits just tepid amusement the first time, then keeps resurfacing to diminished returns over the next nearly 90 minutes: We meet our heroine as a child performing a recital, where the audience is bewildered when this supposed piano prodigy fingers a minute or two of discordant noodling.

A couple decades later, Olive (Amanda Crew of “Silicon Valley”) still dreams of a concert piano career, but has settled for a less-than-dreamy day job and live-in boyfriend. In the course of one day, her sour self-absorbtion gets her fired and prompts said boyfriend to walk out. Neither is any great loss, but frankly, it’s doubtful Olive can do better — she’s no prize herself.

Various confidantes including her equally selfish, oblivious, commune-dwelling mother Crystal (Kim Delaney) advise Olive to refresh by getting out of L.A. and spending a weekend in the presumably restorative countryside. A few clicks get her booked at a duly impressive, sprawling manse in Ventura County. But staying there is more unsettling than restful, due mostly to the thinly disguised hostility of owner Harvey (Robert Patrick), a widower who may have dementia. He definitely has issues, and frequently relates them directly to the camera, all of them revolving around how much he hates this danged modern world and particularly its obnoxious young whippersnappers.

Olive and Harvey are both shrill cartoons; there’s no depth to them, or much logic to their actions. He soon goes off the rails entirely, turning on family friend Agnes (Nancy Linehan Charles), then simply starts to kill strangers. Unaware that she’s probably next, Olive goes on an internet-hookup date with a seemingly OK guy (Tate Ellington) who turns out to be another psycho, later doing LSD because — well, why not. Finally the two principals square off in bloody mortal combat, as Crystal, her maternal instincts finally awakened, and a smitten younger commune resident (Johnny Pemberton) try to drive to the rescue.

“It’s not you, it’s just everything you represent,” Harvey says, trying to explain why he’s so eager to see Olive dead. That’s not a bad line, and “Tone-Deaf” has a few more like it. But the film overestimates its wit, with too much emphasis on dialogue for even a jokey genre-hybrid film. The satire of a bitchy, shallow Millennial and a curmudgeonly, conservative boomer itself comes off tritely misanthropic, cornering the actors into strenuous one-dimensional turns that aren’t nearly as entertaining as intended.

There’s some imagination evident in scenes like Harvey’s occasional hallucinations (where he’s frightened by pushy women and gays in a surreal all-white setting), but nothing here quite works completely. And it’s not for lack of trying, though this is one of those movies where the obviousness of the effort becomes part and parcel of its failure to fly.

The film’s assembly is competent and reasonably colorful, but in the end that professional sheen only underscores how “Tone-Deaf” keeps plugging away at a story and character concept that fall short right out of the gate.

SXSW Film Review: 'Tone-Deaf'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 5, 2019. (In SXSW — Midnighters.) Running time: 87 MIN.

Production: A Saban Films release of a Lightning Entertainment presentation of a Circle of Confusion, Best Medicine production in association with Hindsight Media Services, Enigma Film Prod. (International sales: Lightening Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Producers: Lawrence Mattis, Brad Mendelsohn, Matt Smith, Brion Hambel, Paul Jensen. Executive producers: James Swarbrick, James Scott, Tim Smith, Tracey McCarrick, Robert Patrick.

Crew: Director, writer: Richard Bates Jr. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Ed Wu. Editor: Yvonne Valdez. Music: Michi Britsch.

With: Robert Patrick, Amanda Crew, Hayley Marie Norman, Johnny Pemberton, Nancy Linehan Charles, AnnaLynne McCord, Tate Ellington, Ray Wise, Kim Delaney.

Leave a Reply

3 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Hi Member ……. Star

    I earned $5000 last month by working online just for 5 to 8 hours on my laptop and this was so easy that i myself could not believe before working on this site. If You too want to earn such a big money then come and join us.

    CLICK HERE►► USA WORK

  2. Hi Member ……. Star

    I earned $5000 last month by working online just for 5 to 8 hours on my laptop and this was so easy that i myself could not believe before working on this site. If You too want to earn such a big money then come and join us.

    CLICK HERE►► ONLINE WORK

More Film

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas Ed Asner Elliott

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ed Asner, Elliott Gould Seek SAG-AFTRA Board Seats

    Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Jonathan Taylor Thomas are seeking SAG-AFTRA national board seats as members of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Asner is the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving two terms from 1981 to 1985, and winning five Emmys for his role as Lou Grant and two others [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor Comic Con

    Comic-Con: Marvel 'Shock and Awe' Strategy Dominates Twitter Buzz

    Disney’s Marvel Studios handily won the hype trophy from this year’s Comic-Con International San Diego. Marvel Studios — which returned to the 2019 Comic-Con stage with a chock-full Phase 4 slate of announcements — dominated the discussion on Twitter out of the convention, capturing the biggest volume of buzz for nine of the top 10 [...]

  • Chris Rock - Netflix

    Chris Rock's 'Saw' Reboot Moves Up Five Months to May 2020

    Lionsgate has moved Chris Rock’s upcoming “Saw” reboot forward by five months to May 15, 2020, vacating the pre-Halloween date of Oct. 23, 2020. The studio indicated Monday that it decided to move the untitled “Saw” movie into the summer slot after seeing early footage from the set of the film currently shooting in Toronto. The move [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content