Tribeca Film Festival review: Tilt

For anyone that’s had to experience it for an extended period, unemployment is like watching a horror film play out in real time.

Except you’re the main character and, instead of a villain in a hockey mask, the terrifying conclusion keeps getting delayed until the next paycheck finally arrives.

Throw in a baby on the way, and the stress might forge a psychological crater that few could escape. It’s unconscionable, really, to expect anything less short of a breakdown.

However, director Kasra Farahani doesn’t let that presumption suffocate his second feature film, Tilt, which was one of six films to premiere in the Midnight category at the Tribeca Film Festival last month.

Farahani, an industrial designer turned film designer, was born in Iran and raised in Los Angeles, and uses that blended identity to his advantage in creating Tilt’s main character, Joe, a struggling documentarian who spends his days cutting together clips of America’s “Golden Age” while imposing his own smug voice over narration.

The project — like his previous one about a pinball wizard that made a meager $15,000  — isn’t going anywhere.

And neither is Joe’s marriage to Joanne (played with wonderful constraint by Alexia Rasmussen). She’s the family’s breadwinner — and she’s pregnant.

Rather than spend his days applying to jobs to help carry the burden, Joe (Joseph Cross) logs time fulfilling fraudulent domestic duties, going on hiking trips, and inputting the same foreign name into Google until the search engine finally gives him a result about halfway through the film.

In other words, he’s a pretender.

Just like Patrick Bateman before him and Jack Torrance before that, there’s nothing in Joe’s brain that will set him apart from his contemporaries — only paranoia.

No matter how much time he spends in front of his TV ranting at Donald Trump, the struggling filmmaker can’t seem to grasp that he’s part of the problem.

And, for all the time spent patronizing others, Joe inevitably falls into the trap of taking out his aggression onto others. What did you think he was going to hurt himself? C’mon now.

If you thought your relatives who watch politics on TV into the wee hours of the night were wasting their time, then just wait until you see Joe trampling around LA in the early mornings.

He’s as productive then as he is during the day.

And soon enough, time proves to be insignificant: It doesn’t matter when his documentary will be finished or when Joanne will give birth.

And why would it? It’s all about Joe, and his obsessions.

Cross gives one of the best performances at the festival, gradually exposing us to the danger fermenting inside the film’s antagonist. He’s not quite as lethal as someone like Walter White — he’s not smart enough, but there is trouble that stems from his every move.

Credit to Farahani, who paints us a mundane picture in the film’s first twenty minutes only to submerge it completely under an ocean of dread that eventually builds into a tsunami. It’s a climax that shouldn’t be missed.

And while the mood never totally shifts — once the baby is mentioned early on, the audience can sense things are headed downhill — Tilt does just what the title says: It flips our preconceptions on white male rage and entitlement.

There’s nowhere to hide it in Trump’s America.