Friday, August 23, 2019

Tone-Deaf: Baby Boomer vs. Millennial

Conflict is inevitable between Millennials and Baby-Boomers, because both generations grew up believing they were the center of the universe. That natural hostility will ignite some bloody mayhem in this exercise in suburban horror. However, most viewers will equally root against the two anti-social antagonists of Richard Bates Jr.’s Tone-Deaf, which opens today in New York.

The Baby-Boomers brought us Woodstock, the New Left, disco, and a president who “didn’t inhale,” but Bates presents the widowed Harvey as the youngest and angriest member of the “Greatest Generation.” Thanks to Airbnb (or a similar site), he meets and instantly dislikes the nauseatingly entitled Olive, who will rent his large but creepy Ventura County home for the weekend. She hopes to unwind for the weekend, after breaking up with her deadbeat boyfriend and getting herself fired through her snarky, passive-aggressive work-place behavior. Unfortunately, Harvey’s malicious mischief will ruin the plan.

For reasons never really explained, Harvey is suddenly obsessed by the idea of taking a human life. His first try is pretty sloppy, but he will get better as he practices on minor characters. Of course, Olive will be the main event, unless Crystal, her self-absorbed commune-dwelling mother, suddenly starts acting responsible and assertive.

There are a few clever lines in Tone-Deaf, but the jokes mostly fall flat. It has none of the razor-sharp wit of Bates’ Trash Fire—just the caustic attitude. Frankly, Bates doesn’t even seem to understand what the Baby-Boomers represent. Instead, he just falls back on grouchy old-timer gags, like Grumpy Old Men with a body-count.

Nevertheless, it should be readily stipulated Robert Patrick can still play a genre heavy like nobody’s business. In fact, he out Nic Cages Nic Cage, in a good way, as the wildly unstable, sometime delusional, and possibly dementia-addled Harvey. Patrick has yet to get the post-T2 credit he deserves, but this is not the film that will usher in his renaissance.

As Olive, Amanda Crew mostly hits the same one-note of flippant disdain for the world over and over, which is probably appropriate for her character, but it quickly grows old and tiresome for the audience. It is sort of mind-blowing to see Kim Delaney playing her mom, but she creates a reasonably credible hippy persona.

The title is a reference to Olive’s dreadful piano stylings, but it suits the film perfectly. Frankly, it is unclear whether the film really understands the generational differences it tries to skewer. Of course, if you identify with Generation X, you can just say a plague on both your houses. Regardless, viewers of all ages can safely take a pass when Tone-Deaf opens today (8/23) in New York, at the Cinema Village.