Movie review of “Guidance”: Writer-director-actor Pat Mills has put a new, insightful spin on the tale of a reprobate put in charge of kids in this high- school comedy. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
A well-meaning reprobate, David Gold (Pat Mills, who also wrote and directed this strangely touching comedy) is the new counselor at a tough high school in “Guidance.”
He drinks vodka shots with misfit students who come to see him, alters grades for a failing drug dealer and serves the local bully the same verbal abuse the miscreant dishes out. Trouble is, David is an impostor: a deeply disturbed ne’er-do-well whose best moment in life was a brief stint as a child star on television.
Stumbling through adulthood as a perpetually unemployed alcoholic who covers his tracks through awkward politeness and self-conscious mannerisms, David fakes his way into the school job and, naturally, becomes a hit with at-risk kids. More than that, he helps them with his unorthodox brand of corrupting ministration.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Guidance,’ with Pat Mills, Zahra Bentham. Written and directed by Mills. 80 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, well, you have (“Bad Teacher”; Richard Linklater’s version of “Bad News Bears”). The difference this time is a more finely drawn anti-hero, funny and warily wise, but also living in a bubble where denial of pending disaster and psychological collapse absorb all his energy.
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Mills (who got his start in a 1979 Nickelodeon series called “You Can’t Do That On Television,” from which he uses old footage in “Guidance”) does a wonderful job of keeping all the balls in the air: the comic highs, his character’s twitchy madness, modest but often ingenious production, and offbeat support from the other actors.
Mills gets an especially sophisticated performance from Zahra Bentham as a thoughtful girl whose needs crack open David’s self-involvement. This is a writer-director to watch.