“Write about what you know,” teachers, novelists and script doctors tell us.
So Pat Mills, a one-time child actor, cooked up a screenplay about a one-time child actor. Let’s hope that’s where the autobiography ends in “Guidance,” a rude and often funny Canadian farce about one man’s plunge into the River Denial.
David Gold (Mills) is unemployed and pretty much unemployable. He’s reduced to recording “self-actualization” tapes.
“I allow myself to be imperfect,” he recites. ” I create my own reality.”
He needs to. David is the last one to figure out his own sexuality.
“I’m not gay. I just have a gentle voice.”
He’s broke, behind on his rent and an alcoholic. He’s dodging his doctor’s urgent calls about his skin cancer. His sister is done lending him money.
All he wants to do is “help other people.” And since he’s “an actor. I can BE anyone, I can DO anything,” all he needs is a little online video brush-up, a fake name, and he’s a high school guidance counselor.
He is “Roland Brown” (the name of a guidance counselor he finds online).
“I was married. To a woman. I have a PICTURE if you’d like to see it.” The photo came with the frame.
And next thing you know, he’s on campus, “helping” teens.
More than a few of whom seem through him. He smokes. He swears. He has vodka bottles stuffed into his desk.
A girl is too shy to fit in? Drink a couple of shots with the counselor. A Goth girl needs a makeup buddy? Break out the black lipstick. A misfit boy is “not challenged” by the school and has been expelled? David/Roland changes his grades, calls another school and gets the kid — a pot-selling punk — a fresh start.
“The world is AFRAID of teenagers who know how to make money!”
Obviously some odd, gay Canadian definition of “guidance counselor” is in play here.
Jabrielle (Zahra Bentham, very good), a downtrodden, bullied girl with dyslexia, becomes David’s special project.
Mills stuffs his film with cynical teachers, absentee parents and kids trying to cope with the minefield that even Canadian high schools are built on.
He gives David laugh-out-loud bits of blunt, profane “straight” talk from a guidance counselor who is anything but. He has created a hilarious alter ego. This feels like a Comedy Central pilot, and by rights, should be.
It’s not all surprises and off-color/transgressive delights. Stereotypes rule, and David’s “secret” is going to come out in ways we totally anticipate.
But “Guidance” is often a stitch, and should be an inspiration to any child actor, still struggling to find the limelight decades after their voice changed. Not that David’s ever did.
Cast: Pat Mills, Zahra Bentham, Tracey Hoyt, Laytrel McMullen, Emily Piggford, David A. Wontner
Credits: Written and directed by Pat Mills. A Strand release.
Running time: 1:21