Having its premiere at TIFF today, is this delightful Canadian film that definitely enjoys itself.
Pat Mills is a triple threat in the film, writing, directing and starring as David Gold, a former child star, with a drinking problem, a rent problem, an employment problem, and a little denial about his sexuality. With no real family (that he talks to anyway) and no acting prospects, the looming threat of eviction drives him to extremes. Thinking he’d like to help the youth of today become better people tomorrow, he does seem research on the internet and takes on the role of a lifetime, Roland Brown, guidance councillor.
Hired on a temp basis to fill an emergency vacancy before the principal (Kevin Hanchard) goes away, David struggles to keep his drink on, smoke on school grounds, avoid the other teachers, specifically the gym teacher, Mr. Howell (David Tompa) who is blatantly overt in his overtures to David, and begins to connect with the students.
There are some laugh out loud moments throughout this enjoyable film, and Mills turns in a fun performance as a terrible actor, who, when he starts acting a bit more like a human being, no matter how flawed, he actually helps others.
He particularly connects with Jabrielle (Zahra Bentham) and it’s through their burgeoning friendship that both find themselves, and can, in a way, begin to craft a better life.
I quite enjoyed this one, there are tons of funny moments, little twists of dialogue, and some great characterizations. One of my favorite bits is when David is preparing to become Roland Brown, and keeps practicing his delivery, repeating his story to himself, and playing a role.
It also has some great bits with the other teachers, all of whom seem to think and say things about their students that one always thought they might, and sometimes they are uproariously funny! But the best bits in the film are when David is interacting with the students, helping them find dates, embracing their inner slut, or actually helping one, Ghost (Alex Ozerov) transfer to a new school.
David makes a point of interacting with his students in a way that, though they may be dubious about at first, they can actually relate to and he connects with them more often than not, and through them, he starts to slowly embrace himself. He does make some bad choices, and receives his comeuppance by film’s end, though you find that you’re actually ok with how he ends up.
Mills has a lot of fun with the role, and is a lot of fun to watch as he bikes around recognizable neighborhoods of Toronto (always a plus in my book). I’ll look forward to seeing what he comes up with next!
Guidance screens today and tomorrow at TIFF!