Thursday, May 09, 2019

Boston Underground Film Festival 2019.03: Tone-Deaf and Mope

I kind of get why BUFF has the local horror block Friday afternoon - it's a classic thing that will bring people with a vested interest out during a less-than-prime slot but maybe won't fill the theater as much during the evening - but I still wish I could get to it. Maybe I wouldn't write them up as positively as I'd like here, but I love the huge chunks Fantasia is able to devote to French-Canadian things and would love quality stuff that is unapologetically New England-centric.

Richard Bates, Jr. didn't make it to Boston this year, though he has in the past. Maybe he'll get to Montreal. It looks like his film already has a release date scheduled, not always the case for movies that play here.

We did get a visit from Mope director Lucas Heyne (left, with BUFF's Kevin Monahan). His movie is kind of out there, the sort that seems more so when you realize that it was based upon a true story. How he dealt with that was the most interesting part of the Q&A: One thing that didn't make it into the movie much at all is the background his main character came from, a fairly restrictive religious upbringing that probably had him having a very skewed outlook on porn and sex generally, so he wound up in a situation where one parent would not speak to him at all, while the other was, perhaps, a little too eager to be involved, excited to visit a film set and festivals even though the film is about his son doing something awful.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 March 2019 at the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival, DCP)

Richard Bates Jr. makes a valiant effort to frame Tone-Deaf in a way where its black comedy is about something bigger than just the funny murder, although I'm not sure that it's that deep: There's more there than "get a load of those Boomers/Millennials and their messed-up priorities!", but maybe not that much. It is, at least, pretty consistently funny, with an especially entertaining turn from a guy who seldom seems to get a role this good.

It starts with Olive (Amanda Crew) having her life blow up - fired at work, kicking the cheating boyfriend out - and while she probably won't miss that particular job or guy, it still kind of sucks. She takes the advice of hippie mom Crystal (Kim Delaney) to get out of town for a weekend, renting a nice-looking house online. She's not sure exactly what she's supposed to do now that she's gotten away from the city on her own, but it's a bit uncomfortable that Harvey (Robert Patrick), the place's owner, seems to be around a bit more than is ideal - he's old-fashioned, recently lost his wife, and maybe starting to have memory issues. It's probably time for him to start crossing items off his bucket list. Unfortunately for Olive, the top item is killing someone.

Robert Patrick has had a weird career, bursting onto the scene playing a robot so enveloped by visual effects that it is easy to overlook just how much his specific cool intensity made Terminator 2 work and arguably stepping into a no-win situation replacing David Duchovny on The X-Files for his highest-profile leading role, filling the spaces around that with various cops, soldiers, and other authority figures, advancing in rank as he has aged and getting more of a chance to break out some dry humor as the grizzled vet. He has, as a result, grown into being able to play guys like Harvey as just the right sort of familiar that he can get away with being somewhat abrasive. It's more than just leveraging what's become a effective persona, though; he's able to grab a few of the movie's funniest moments, play as an effective horror-movie villain, and also convey the more existential horror of feeling your mind start to slip away. It's an impressively rounded character and performance for this sort of genre film - maybe not the best thing Patrick has ever done, but not as far off as one might think.

Full review on EFilmCritic


* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 22 March 2019 at the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival, DCP)

Apparently,"mope" is porn-industry slang for someone who hangs around, eager to be a part of what's going on but not having what it takes to actually break in. I must admit, I could do without knowing this, though that's admittedly the same general reaction I have to grotty little movies about this business that mostly leave me wanting a shower afterward. Mope tells a worthy story that people tend to shy away from, but it certainly does spend a lot of time wallowing in the muck, even by the sordid standards of movies about porn.

The biggest mope in this movie (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) goes by the name Steve Driver; he's relocated from the east coast to make his dreams of being an adult film star come true, despite being skinny, not particularly well-endowed, and possessed of some pretty nasty body odor. A bit of performance anxiety at a sort of open audition introduces him to a kindred spirit in "Tom Dong" (Kelly Sry), who also does tech support and builds websites to stay in that orbit. They convince a bottom-tier producer (Brian Huskey) to give them a chance, but it's immediately clear that Steve's ambitions are unrealistic (to say the least) and his psyche fragile, and his disruptive behavior leaves Tom torn between what is likely his only friend and having an actual place in the world he's obsessed with.

Many films might start out in a less-extreme place, or jump back to it after an attention-getting flash-forward, but director Lucas Heyne and his co-writers are in some ways more interested in a finer distinction that could get lost if they weren't looking so closely at the line between Tom's consuming fandom and Steve's obsession. It can be a fine line and particularly blurred if the comparison is a healthy interest in one's hobby, but watching the space between Steven and Tom form is instructive and often compelling. It's not exactly applicable to any sort of enthusiasm - Heyne and company recognize that there are some very specific issues with exploitation in this industry - but there's a special horror in observing that Tom can pull back and compromise, but Steve's mental illness won't let him.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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