If you spend any time on Twitter, you’ve probably gotten the impression that there is a not-so-subtle war going on between Millennials and Baby Boomers.
OK, so maybe war is a strong word, but after scrolling through thousands of comments on everything from immigration to hair spray, it’s clear the two generations don’t see eye-to-eye on much.
That cultural divide is the central tension in writer/director Richard Bates Jr.’s TONE-DEAF.
In TONE-DEAF, Olive’s (Amanda Crew) world is semi falling apart. She breaks up with her boyfriend after finding yet another parking ticket on her car (street cleaners come on Tuesday, York) only to get fired from her designing job the next day for “general insubordination.” I say her world is semi falling apart because although Olive is clearly frustrated by her current situation, it doesn’t seem to bother her all too much. Throughout the film, Bates directs his actors to perform with the a laissez-faire aloofness many Boomers accuse Millennials of having toward, well everything.
Olive’s friends encourage her to get out of LA for a little bit and recharge. After much cajoling, and a push from her mother (Kim Delaney), Olive yolos it and decides to rent a house outside the city for the weekend.
Enter Harvey (Robert Patrick).
Oh what to say about Harvey? This home-owning Baby Boomer introduces himself to the audience in a fourth wall-breaking monologue highlighting everything he hates about the generation his spawned and hints at his designs to do something about it. “I know you all don’t like to get your hands dirty,” he says, rubbing loose earth into his palms. “Never been a problem with me.”
Not creepy at all.
So Olive moves in for the weekend and chills out in a fashion I can respect. She wanders around his big spooky mansion, smokes some weed, takes a nap, goes on Tinder, and eats rotelle. Fun!
But things aren’t all pre-rolls and pasta in the country. As the weekend progresses, Olive and Harvey begin to play a dangerous, one-sided game of cat and mouse that can only end in the big M. I’m talking murder.
I had a good time with TONE-DEAF. The story is fun and the cast is great (not only did they get Robert Patrick of T-1000 fame, but did I mention Ray Wise makes a cameo? Leland Palmer, y’all). I especially found the dialogue and monologues top notch. In fact, this script is filled with quoteables, most notable from Robert Patrick’s Harvey. “Sunglasses are for the outside, and Sundays are for the lord” and “Papa made a remix” come to mind. But my favorite has to be the near hyperbolic “When I was a kid we didn’t have dreams. We just worked hard.”
I want to give a special shout out to Anthony Tran’s costuming. Costumes often get overlooked in modern films where everyone is dressed in more or less “normal” clothes, but Tran’s costumes help elevate the storytelling by clueing us in on the character’s personalities. Olive’s sport-as-fashion look helps paint the picture of our hero as a disaffected, privileged Millennial, while Harvey’s patterned pull-over reminds me of many a retiree.
If there’s one thing the film could have used more of, it’s close ups. I could be wrong, but as I reflect back, I don’t remember more than a handful in the entire film, which is a shame. With such fantastic actors rocking every scene, it would have been nice to be a little closer to the action once in a while.
So why is this movie called TONE-DEAF? Honestly, I’m not sure. I mean, I am, but I’m not. Throughout the film, Olive, her friends, and even her mother talk about how she always wanted to be a successful pianist. But it turns out that Olive is terrible. She plays like someone with her thumbs and forefingers tied together. And though there is a weak subplot involving another character playing the piano, it doesn’t really have much to do with the actual story Bates is telling. Not to mention being tone-deaf means that a person can’t perceive the difference between musical pitches, not that they couldn’t train to play the piano, but that feels a little picky.
So is there a culture war going on between Baby Boomers and Millennials? I’m still not sure. If there is, I’m guessing it’s not one any of us can win. As we Millennials age, the next generation is guaranteed to find us as backward and slow to social change as we find the Boomers. It’s only a matter of time until we’re the establishment, staring into the faces of angry youths only too ready to ask “Who’s the hot mess now, you salty old douche nozzle?”
TONE-DEAF is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital and includes a special featurette about the making of the film.