By James Hancock August 16th, 2015
The history of show business is littered with countless sad tales of child actors who fail to make the transition into adult actors or just being an adult period. Thankfully writer-director Pat Mills will not become one of those sad cases and has found a way to channel his experiences as a child actor on You Can’t Do That on Television (1979-90) into one of the funniest films you are likely to see this year. In his debut feature film Guidance, Pat Mills plays David Gold, a pathologically immature alcoholic who lives in total denial of many things including the fact that he peaked several decades ago on a show called ‘Wacky Street’. Now pushing 40, he is out of work and has been diagnosed with an aggressive case of skin cancer. That doesn’t stop him from spending as much time as possible in the tanning salon, boozing at all hours and murmuring motivational lectures to himself in a gentle tone to boost his confidence about the decisions he’s made in life. When he is fired from a voiceover acting gig for being drunk at 9:30 am and sounding too gay, David comes up with a scam to earn some cash applying for a job as a high school guidance counselor under an assumed identity. Much like a method actor who loses himself in a role, David hurls himself into his new vocation and becomes an overnight hit with the students due to his unconventional romantic advice and willingness to drink and smoke weed with them at all hours. I spent most of the first hour of the film cackling like a hyena at Pat Mills’ wildly original brand of humor. Guidance eventually loses a little momentum as the story enters the 3rd Act but at a lean 81 minute running time, you won’t have time to care.
What makes this movie work is Pat Mills. He is a natural born performer who over the course of the story constructs a persona that in a strange way feels like an upside down version of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Both characters live in a reality distortion bubble of their own creation, both are obsessed with their personal appearance, both struggle desperately to fit in to the point of living a double life, and both characters speak directly to the audience about their ideas, philosophies, etc. living in total denial of who the audience truly perceives them to be. But contrary to the horror we feel toward Patrick Bateman, with Guidance we get to laugh hysterically at David Gold’s antics like endlessly rewatching episodes of ‘Wacky Street’ while living in constant overwhelming fear of sex with either gender. What I enjoyed most was how Pat Mills managed to create a feel-good movie without ever resorting to the cheap, sentimental tricks that so many comedies inevitably employ typically 2/3 of the way through the story in order to give the movie some heart. Mills keeps his story tight and simple and in my opinion Guidance signals the arrival of a highly entertaining new writer-director that I hope will stay busy in the years to come. I’ve been reading some stuff online about a show that he is developing as well as his screenplay Don’t Talk to Irene which won the award for best comedy screenplay at the 2013 Austin Film Festival. Whatever he chooses to do next, he deserves to take a bow for his work on Guidance and I look forward to seeing more movies from Pat Mills in the future.
Opens Theatrically in New York on Friday, August 21 at The Village East Cinema with a national release to follow.
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