First, it’s not typically easy to define both director and writer Richard Bates Jr.’s work, it tends to lean more abstract and off-beat, challenging everyone who watches it whether to critique or merely entertain, however that commonly leads to wide ranging discussions. I have had the opportunity to see Bates’ short film Excision at the 2008 Terror Film Festival, in Philadelphia, PA with an audience and then the full-length feature of the same name on the small screen at home, and each time it was a unique experience to witness his true independent skills. This outing has a violent-drama driven production, with some oddly designed characters, warped in social versus cultural norms, and a tinge of ageism. This movie found distribution from Saban Films, that welcomes the battle of millennials and baby boomers, layered with black comedy and satirical rhetoric as one learns who is truly Tone-Deaf.
The story follows Olive, (Amanda Crew (The Haunting in Connecticut )) has had a terrible day, after her insulting, sexist boss is in earshot, she whines about missing free lunch Friday, she gets a parking ticket and then a sudden break-up with free-loading boyfriend leaves her lost. Her friends recommend she indulge in her music, however they’re a tad tone-deaf to tell her style offers disgrace, and then Lenore (Hayley Marie Norman (Trailer Park of Terror ) insists she bugs out for the weekend to recoup. Olive tries rekindling her relationship with her free spirit mother Crystal (Kim Delaney), who joined a hippie commune following the suicide of Olive’s father, Michael (Ray Wise) who hanged himself while she performed a piano recital. Hence out of options she chooses an Airbnb at an old- fashioned Victorian home owned by recent widower Harvey (Robert Patrick (Lost After Dark ), who has a quirky attitude, and some strange habits. Namely, what at first appears to be talking directly to the audience, however the direction of the camera appears more at a child, here he explains himself looking over his achievements and has checked them off but one, murder, and he’s a stickler for completing his to-do list. Meanwhile he rants about the youth, interested in comforting themselves in safety blankets and less harsh words, that returns us back to Olive, whose world is her phone, and taking an acid trip into new life discoveries. However, all the viewers know these two misguided individuals are on a collision course of madness and survival.
When one hears the term “Tone-Deaf” they think of some unable to hear the right pitch in music, however, Bates, masks this slightly differently by using it to mean everyone in society is moving through life by their owner tune, unaware of the actions and consequences whether real or perceived. One of the biggest gripes from critics is Harvey’s constant breaking of the fourth wall of acting, however, if one notes his position, it appears as if he’s conveying to a child, rather than the audience. That child likely his son, as he is shown as someone wrapped up in his own world, especially when he barges into Olive’s bedroom unannounced and unwelcomed, but doesn’t have common decency to leave. Aside from that the cast does a fine job of making the entire satire production achieve a lasting impression with viewers so that they can argue amongst themselves afterwards. It’s also a welcome sight, that his Airbnb doesn’t appear purely as torture-porn backdrop, hence the bloodshed doesn’t pick-up till the last act of the movie.
Bates’ movie truly gives a twisted view from everyone involved, but quite simply it’s easy to determine who is tone-deaf, everyone, each person is wrapped up in their own isolated world, caring of themselves, and their needs versus wants. Olive’s friends can’t bear to be brutally honest with her, and Olive is focused on her phone and limited scope of life, Harvey is frankly nuttier than a fruit-cake while Crystal is centered on herself, for the most part, absent of her motherly duties until the all needed important twist, which was….well that is for you to discover, just make the time to do so in the perverse world before you book a trip to an Airbnb.
IMDb Rating: 6.1/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.0/10