SIFF Film Review – Guidance
Ah, the idiot man-child: comedy staple or sad, overused trope? Both actually. I won’t deny I occasionally enjoy watching a dysfunctional dude implode before learning a valuable lesson; Happy Gilmore and School of Rock come to mind as very funny comedies about men who have trouble growing up. For the most part however, it’s the same old thing rehashed over and over again (every other Adam Sandler move.) I’m a grumpy middle-aged lady. I do not have the time or inclination to watch movies about dumbasses that keep sabotaging their own lives. I am 47 and have probably lived over half my natural lifespan. I COULD GO AT ANY TIME. Accidents happen, people. As I endlessly ponder my mortality, I don’t have time to watch the same film over and over again. I want to see some new and cool shit. So therefore, when choosing what to cover at the Seattle International Film Festival, I decided to review Guidance, a film about an idiot man-child that has a very similar plot to every other movie of its type. Whatever. I’m having a mid life crisis; I can watch what I want. Also, I kind of enjoyed it. So sue me.
David Gold (Pat Mills – also writing and directing) is a former child star whose life has stalled in a big way. He’s just been fired from a non-union job voicing affirmation audio books, his doctor is VERY worried about a suspicious mole on his arm, and he may have a bit of a substance abuse problem. His sister thinks he’s an embarrassment, and his landlady really wants her money. He’s an actor, so he decides to put his skills to use helping others; he takes over the persona of a guidance counselor he sees online and applies for a job. And to everyone’s (his and mine) surprise he gets it. He is completely clueless about how to be a counselor, but somehow manages to survive the other staff, students who are hip to his not being what he seems, and his own worst impulses. In fact, he thrives by being his own very screwed up self. But all good things must come to an end and there are revelations, crime sprees, and not very many lessons learned before the movie is over.
Honestly, I have to say there is not one original plot point in this movie. It’s every idiot man-child film rehashed into a slightly updated gayer version. (David takes his denial one step further by constantly denying his homosexuality, even to himself.) Seriously, it’s School of Rock where the kids learn how to do shots instead of playing instruments. But unlike most of other idiot man-child movies, it’s not really a sappy morality tale, which is part of its charm. Most of these movies are full of false sentimentality and crappy life lessons. David is almost as messed up at the end of the film as he is at the beginning, but he’s set things up where he’s forced to adjust his ways whether he wants to or not. Change is difficult and sometimes we have to screw up pretty bad to make it happen. He spirals out of control pretty hard and then things just kind of end; not a ton of resolution here, and I’m okay with that.
So yeah, it’s derivative, but it’s also pretty funny. It looks way better than it’s budget would have you believe it could, and the fact that director/writer/star Pat Mills was also a child actor (he was in You Can’t Do That on Television) give it a certain truthfulness that might otherwise not be present. It’s a good showcase for Mills, and I’m curious to see what he does next. I’m not going to pretend I loved this movie, because I didn’t. But I did like it, and I probably laughed out loud four or five times. Sometimes I just want a movie to be funny; I don’t want to grow as a person while watching it. The humor is a little crude, and sometimes the plot crosses into questionable territory, but whatever. It’s a fun diversion, and if that sounds like faint praise, it’s not. Like I said earlier, I’m getting older and sometimes I just want a distraction from the grind of continued existence. Too real for you? Whatever. I want more and better comedies to lighten the heaviness of all our existences, but until then, I’ll enjoy this just fine.
Also, be sure to check out our interview with writer/director/actor Pat Mills from SIFF 2015.