David Gold has just lost his last job of his lousy acting career for his problem with the bottle. On top of that he was diagnosed with skin cancer and, to make things worse, his refusal to accept his homosexuality makes him live a life full of lies and memories. Already broke and with a rent to pay David decides to act as a school counsellor supporting the problematic students of Grusin High. The problem is that things will not be easy as predicted. Guidance is an easygoing comedy that tell with irony, sarcasm and a little bit of cynicism the crazy life of the queer par excellence. (SQFF)
A closeted former child actor, out of work and alcoholic, fakes his resume and gets a job as a high school guidance counsellor, where he thrives giving terrible advice.
David Gold, 36, a pathologically immature former child actor, has never been able to get over high school. Today, he was just diagnosed with skin cancer and got fired from the last acting gig he could get.
Desperate for money and with nothing else to lose, he fakes his resume, and gets a job as a high school guidance counsellor. The students of Grusin High love him – it might be because he drinks and smokes with them. But this is just the beginning of his downward spiral. When he meets Jabrielle, a teenaged outcast who’s just as screwed up as he is, he might learn that in the company of teenagers, sometimes you can go too far, especially when it comes to committing a ridiculous crime. (production)
An enjoyable entry into the swelling ranks of corrupt-the-youth comedies, Pat Mills’s Guidance puts an alcoholic deadbeat in the counselor’s office of a troubled high school and finds that at least a few of his students are better off for the dubious advice he gives. In the lead role, Mills brings a mix of qualities that are sometimes lacking when better known actors decide to play bad; while the film can’t hope for the exposure given to something like Bad Teacher, the modest pic will entertain on the fest circuit and home vid.
Mills, who years ago did a brief stint on “You Can’t Do That on Television,” plays washed-up child actor David Gold, a cheerfully oblivious alcoholic who’s on the outs with his family and burning other bridges as quickly as possible. On the verge of eviction, he lies his way into a guidance-counselor gig at Grusin High; there, while trying to maintain his composure around faculty, he makes no attempt with the kids. Fifths of vodka come out routinely in his office, helping shy girls self-medicate and winning the grudging acceptance of campus toughs.
“I exist in the space between caring too much and not giving a f—,” Gold says at one point, getting at the pleasure of seeing these interactions with kids who are nonplussed, then delighted by the strangely honest way he deals with them. One girl in particular earns his loyalty: Jabrielle (Zahra Bentham), whose self-esteem has been decimated by her mother and who, when things inevitably go south for Gold at the school, becomes his fugitive partner. Here, finally, Mills lets an ounce of self-awareness crawl into the character’s delusions of competence (throughout, we’ve been hearing the Stuart Smalley-like affirmations he recorded as his last “acting” gig); while their time together is thinly drawn, it hits the right notes lightly and allows the movie a satisfying way out of its realism-be-damned premise.
Production values suit the happy superficiality of our hero, whose only research for his fake career is studying a YouTube video and buying a corduroy jacket. Especially fitting is bubbly electronics-heavy music by Sergei Kofman and the production duo Menalon. (John DeFore, Hollywoodreporter.com)
There are trace elements of “Strangers with Candy,” “Role Models” and the contrastingly serious “Half Nelson” in “Guidance,” but that doesn’t stop Pat Mills’ debut as writer-director-star from being a delight on its own terms. This comedy about a former TV child star turned train wreck who decides to take a high-school guidance counselor job — or rather, pose as someone appropriate for that position — is consistently amusing and surprisingly uncynical in the end. It’s certainly got modest sleeper potential, though outside Canada, the pic may find more of a welcome in home formats than in theaters.
David Gold (Mills) is the 30-ish onetime star of the TV kids’ show “Wacky Street,” which he spends plenty of time watching in reruns. His fortunes have fallen since that early peak, however. We first meet him doing an audio recording of New Age affirmations, a last-resort acting gig he’s promptly fired from for being drunk at 9 a.m. and “sounding too gay.” Indeed, everyone but David seems to think he’s gay — but then, he’s in denial on many, many fronts, the latest being a diagnosis of Stage 3 skin cancer.
Estranged from his family and on the verge of being evicted, he decides he wants to “help teenagers” (by means more lucrative than buying them alcohol at the liquor store), and studies for a high-school guidance counselor position as he would for a role. Lacking much imagination, he steals the identity of an online teen counselor, repeating the man’s vacuous truisms (“Teenagers are complicated, but they’re just like us!”) until he’s learned the part by heart. Amazingly, he does get hired at Grusin High by the harried principal (Kevin Hanchard), who needs to replace his just-deceased counselor before going on vacation.
In his new guise, complete with Pee-wee Hermanesque clothes and body language, David stirs the suspicions of Grusin’s jaded staff. He also stirs something else in gay gym teacher Scott (David Tompa), who takes him for a closet case and begins pitching aggressive, unwanted woo. David’s off-the-wall advice to his needy students, however, begins to score some surprising successes, aided by the vodka shots he recklessly shares with them. Shy girl Rhonda (Eleanor Zichy) is tipsily empowered to get a boyfriend; goth Alexondria (Emily Piggford), faced with an authority figure who has the mind of a self-pitying depressed adolescent, thinks she’s never been so fully understood before; and campus pot dealer Brent (Alex Ozerov) gets a new client, as well as someone who appreciates his untapped potential.
HIs biggest object of concern, however, is Jabrielle (Zahra Bentham), a perpetual class-skipper stuck in an abusive home situation. The frequently inappropriate but mutually supportive relationship that evolves between them soon takes a leap into wilder terrain, with Jabrielle tagging along as he spirals fully out of control.
The modest pic’s laughs get bigger as it goes along, and so does its surprising warmth. The dynamic between David and Jabrielle may owe an awful lot to that between Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps in “Half Nelson,” but it’s still impressive how Mills manages to work that poignance into what’s otherwise a cheerful exercise in bad-taste (but not mean-spirited) comedy. Performances are sharp, with Mills (who actually started out as a child actor on a Nickolodeon series) channeling a bit of Paul Lynde, albeit with a softer center, as the spectacularly hapless protag. In a rare moment of clear self-awareness, David tells a student, “Let’s just say I exist in the space between caring too much and not giving a fuck.”
Making his first feature after several well-received shorts, Mills displays considerable confidence and skill executing his own well-tuned screenplay. The small-scale, Toronto-shot pic is nicely turned in design and tech departments. (Dennis Harvey, Variety.com)