Has there ever been a case where a unique premise has been so creatively original that it overcomes the flaws in execution? I can’t think of one, as poor implementation always hurts the end product. Such is the case of Cody Clarke’s Mute Date. The idea is interesting, but odd stylistic choices and awful dialogue prevent the movie from ever rising above mediocrity.
Noah Gutman (Anthony Kapfer) receives a packet in the mail from Tellr Laboratories. Inside the manila envelope is a letter stating that Noah has been approved for as a beta-tester for Tellr’s latest product—a pill that allows people to talk telepathically with others who have taken the pill. Noah is set-up on a blind date with Erica (Nina Tandilashvili) and is told to take the pill one hour before the meeting time.
At the park where the date will take place, once the duo gets within a certain radius of each other, the pill automatically links up, so whoever’s thoughts you hear is the person you are meeting. For this four hour date, Noah and Erica must stay within the park and are unable to talk; thus they can share their thoughts and pantomime but little else.
“… a pill that allows people to talk telepathically with others who have taken the pill.”
Of course, as with any new technology things do go wrong. At one point in the date, Noah needs to use the restroom. Erica believes she saw a building which had one on it not too far from where they are sitting. However, she gets all turned around, and they get a tad lost in the woods of the park. Erica apologizes to him, stating how she has never been the best navigator. He says it is okay and that he’s going to relieve himself behind some bushes. The Tellr pill, which monitors conversations and behaviors causes abdominal discomfort in Erica, claiming she was sexist because she is terrible with directions. The pill believes this is perpetuating sexist stereotypes and is not confined to just one human being, male or female, not knowing their way around very well.
Then come the ads; yes, the magical telepathy pill runs ads, unless you make a one-time payment of $10.99, plus micropayments during peak advertising hours. The potential couple tries the best they can to overcome the ridiculousness of Tellr’s invention and bond over their shared hatred of the seemingly magic tablet. As the hours pass by, the true nature of Tellr Laboratories work comes to light and Noah and Erica are face to face with a terrible truth.
Mute Date does not lack for conversation, as the leads communicate via their mind; and that right there is the issue. The way the actors’ sound is tinny and odd. Clarke was his own one-person sound engineer recording, editing, and mixing the audio himself. As such, I am uncertain if the off-putting way they sound was intentional. Kapfer and Tandilashvili never sound entirely present; not helping matters is how at times the psychical movements and the voiceovers don’t match up.
“…shies away from the full potential of its ideas.”
Then there’s the dialogue, at least for the less plot-centric parts of Mute Date. The early conversations feel improvised, which is not necessarily a bad thing unto itself. However, there is a lot of repetition in what Noah and Erica say to each other. Asking about each other’s work, Noah tells Erica that he is a stand-up comic, specializing in one-liners. Erica then goes on about how she would have two lines, which is twice as many as the guy with one line. The majority of their talks on the date go round and round like that.
It is too bad too, as the leads are pretty good here. Both of them have strong physical presences and move their bodies throughout the space in a way that suggests both the fun they are having with each other, and the bizarre reality they found themselves. Anna Fikhman, as the computerized voice monitoring the beta-test, does a great deadpan and her absolute belief that she’s above these two people in every way comes through quite strongly.
Mute Date shies away from the full potential of its ideas. Some jokes land, some jokes don’t. Some moments work, others are so repetitive as to be annoying. Then there’s the whole alpha-beta dichotomy, which has long been disproven; by the very person to do the original study of wolf behaviors that led to that thought process no less. Despite solid acting and an original idea, all of this means there is very little to recommend about Mute Date.
Mute Date (2019) Directed by Cody Clarke. Written by Cody Clarke. Starring Anthony Kapfer, Nina Tandilashvili, Anna Fikhman, Sarah Teed.
3 out of 10 Park Benches