September 19, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Jeremy “Jer” Sklar
Culture Representation: Taking place in Chicago and other parts of the United States, the sci-fi comedy film “Tom of Your Life” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few Latinos, African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: A hospital nurse kidnaps a newborn person who has a mysterious biological condition: Every hour, he ages four years.
Culture Audience: “Tom of Your Life” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching under-the-radar indie comedies that tend to be meandering with annoying characters.
The sci-fi comedy “Tom of Your Life” had so much potential to be a clever story about what happens when someone ages rapidly in one day. Unfortunately, the movie (written and directed by Jeremy “Jer” Sklar) wastes a lot of time with scenes that don’t really go anywhere, unexplained plot holes, and some uneven acting by Sklar, who also stars in the movie.
“Tom of Your Life” begins with viewers finding out that a hospital nurse named Jessica “Jess” Budusky (played by Baize Buzan) has kidnapped someone named Tom from the hospital because Tom was going to undergo scientific studies as a freak of nature. Why? Because when Tom was born at 4:44 a.m. that day, the doctors found out that Tom aged four years every hour.
At the beginning of the film, Tom is now 8 years old (played by Judah Abner Paul), he’s with Jess in a diner, and they’re having breakfast. Jess explains to Tom that he was born two hours ago and why he’s “different” from other people. It’s easy to see why Jess abducted him: She wants to him to experience having a “normal life” before he’s possibly locked up in a research lab. (Tom’s parents are never shown in the movie.)
For whatever reason, Jess keeps getting Tom a red tracksuit with white stripes to wear, up through his adulthood. It’s a little bit of an aesthetic gimmick that isn’t nearly as problematic as the last third of the movie, which goes downhill very quickly with numerous scenes that aren’t funny and wasted opportunities to make Tom a fascinating character.
Inexplicably, Tom already knows how to talk like an 8-year-old, even though he’s technically only two hours old. He can point to things like a clock in the diner and know exactly what it is. He knows how to use eating utensils. It’s implied that the kidnapping happened so fast that there wasn’t time for anyone to teach Tom how to walk, talk, identify objects, and a myriad of other things that a newborn baby wouldn’t be able to do. Therefore, Tom must be at beyond genius level to learn so quickly, right? Wrong.
Jess takes Tom to a schoolyard where several kids are playing kickball, but Tom just stands there dumfounded, as if he doesn’t know what to do. And he still can’t figure it out after watching the kids play, so Jess has to show him how to play this extremely easy game. And oddly, if this kid is supposed to be so smart and inquisitive, he doesn’t seem curious at all about how long he’s supposed to be driven around by this strange woman who’s not a family member. It’s one of many plot holes in this jumbled movie.
When Tom is 12 years old (played by Joshua Paul), Jess takes him to a farm that gives guided tours so that he can experience being around farm animals. This scene only seems to exist for two purposes: First, so there can be a “put out to pasture” metaphor, when Tom sees that elderly animals are ignored, compared to the younger animals. “Is that what they do to old people?” Tom asks Jess. “Put them to the side and forget about them?”
The other reason for the scene is to show that while Tom is on the guided tour, Jess has snuck back to her car to smoke some dope. You see, she’s not the straight-laced, responsible parental figure that some people might think she would be in this story. She’s a hot mess.
It turns out that Jess has been having an affair with the married doctor who’s one of the few people at the hospital who knows Tom’s secret and that Jess has kidnapped Tom. Dr. Dennis Benedict (played by Paul Tigue) is in love with Jess, but the feeling isn’t mutual. Because of his love for Jess, Dr. Benedict won’t call the police to report the kidnapping. Instead, he hires his private-investigator brother Carl (played by James Sharpe, the movie’s producer) to find Jess and Tom and bring them back to the hospital.
In her car, Jess conveniently has a wig that she puts on when she feels paranoid about being recognized as a fugitive kidnapper. Eventually, she figures out that she’s more likely to get caught because she’s using her own car, so there’s a part of the movie that’s about stealing someone else’s vehicle, in order to make it harder for Jess to be tracked down. But stealing someone else’s vehicle comes with its own set of problems.
While Jess tries to maintain a façade to Tom that they’re on a fun “family-styled” adventure, she’s been persistently calling a doctor she knows in Chicago named Dr. Bill Albrecht (played by Billy Minshall), but she keeps getting his voice mail and he’s not returning her messages. Why does she want to contact him? Because he’s the only medical professional she knows who could possibly figure out what’s going on with Tom.
And there’s something else: Dr. Albrecht happens to be Jess’ ex-boyfriend and he has a restraining order against her. (She seems to have a thing for older men who are doctors.) The reason why he has a restraining order against her is revealed later in the movie. Jess has already made up her mind to drive to Chicago and meet with Dr. Albrecht in person.
At this point, it’s four hours after Tom has been born, and he’s now aged to look like he’s 16 years old. (Dominic Resigno plays Tom in his teens and 20s.) Tom finally asks who his parents are and if they know he’s been kidnapped. Jess gives an extremely vague answer: She tells Tom that his father is in the Navy and that the last thing she knew about his mother was that she was sedated from the C-section she had when she gave birth to Tom.
Tom begins to tell Jess that he’d really like to go sailing, and she says they’ll try to do that on their trip. Tom’s fixation on sailing and being on a sailboat is repeatedly brought up in the movie, but not to a lot of great comedic effect. And because he’s a teenager at this point in the movie, he becomes interested in finding out how to drive, learning about sex, and rebelling. The movie has a predictable masturbation scene, and there’s a part of the movie where Tom steals the car to go to a strip club, leaving an infuriated Jess stranded.
It should be noted that although Jess’ life is messed-up, she not very sympathetic at all. It will be hard for viewers to root for her and the adult Tom because they’re both very difficult people to like. At least Tom has an excuse for his tacky behavior since he hasn’t been alive long enough to learn a lot of social skills.
As an example of how rude Jess can be, while she’s stranded on the road, an unnamed man in a purple van (played by Patrick Zielinski) stops and asks Jess, “Do you need a lift?” She snaps at him, “Not in your piece-of-shit rape van!” And when it’s revealed what Jess did to have a restraining order against her, any sympathy that viewers might have for her will vanish, even though the movie gives an emotionally manipulative excuse for her grossly awful actions.
Jess gets even more obnoxious as the story goes on. Even though she’s taken it upon herself to be responsible for Tom during this road trip, she has no qualms about driving under the influence of drugs while Tom is in the car with her. During one part of the trip, she tells Tom that she has a tendency to leave her purse behind wherever she is, and she asks him to keep an eye on it for her. As soon as she says that, you just know that something is going to happen to that purse.
As the story goes on and Tom becomes a guy in his 30s and 40s and so on (writer/director Sklar plays all the oldest versions of Tom), he becomes even more dimwitted instead of the quick-learning person he was at the beginning of the story. Rather than developing a personality, he seems to be an overgrown man-child who has a hard time thinking for himself and is easily led by others.
It’s just an excuse for the movie to have Tom say a lot of politically incorrect things to people, such as when Tom is sitting on a subway next to an African American man and asks him what happened to the color of his skin. The man replies, “What happened to yours?” And then there’s the predictable scene of Tom partying for the first time, with substances legal and illegal, as well as the obligatory prostitute who’s hired when Tom wants to lose his virginity.
As Tom gets older and more experienced, he should have gotten more interesting. Instead, “Tom of Your Life” drags in the scenes where middle-aged/older Tom is just an empty shell of a person. Perhaps Sklar was inspired by the Peter Sellers character in “Being There,” but Sklar’s acting skills just aren’t on that level. And unfortunately, most of the supporting characters aren’t interesting either.
On the plus side, “Tom of Your Life” has some noteworthy cinematography from Christopher Rejano, who really makes great use of autumn colors and exterior shots to bring some vibrancy to some scenes. And the aging makeup by David Ian Grant is also very good for a low-budget film such as this one. And even though Buzan plays a very aggravating character in Jess, it’s clear that Buzan is more talented than most of the cast when it comes to acting.
“Tom of Your Life” has an original score composed by Sklar, whose band the Blackstrap Molasses has original songs in the movie. The music isn’t very memorable, but it gets the job done on an adequate level. Unfortunately, the last third of the movie just seems to be written as a series of awkward comedy sketches instead of a cohesive story arc, with very little to show that these characters have genuinely relatable feelings and personalities. There’s an attempt to bring some emotional connection and sentimentality in the very last scene of the movie. But by then, it’s too little, too late.
Gravitas Ventures released “Tom of Your Life” on digital and VOD on September 1, 2020.