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Posted on 8/17/10 08:37 AM
"The Trotsky" is exactly what Montreal needs in its film repertoir, a city so often photographed on screen to ape the atmosphere of an old Europe or frozen Russia. It's old port and mountain have been the backdrop for lovers and spies. But the part of Montreal I knew growing up, its suburbs, have never fully been realized so colourfully as in this production.
I have passed Montreal West so many times that the film became a rather transcendent experience, watching these students flood the bus stops and talk in mixed packs. The old cliques imagined by Howard Hughes ("Breakfast Club"), Richard Linklater ("Dazed & Confused") or even Lucas ("American Graffiti") never really represented the youth that I felt I was a part of. I never saw myself in those characters. Sure I knew stoners and jocks, but focuses were always more about language conflicts (being anglophones in a french province) and the war of the classes. Were you a metal head from the barrows of Lachine or were you a stuck up cunt from Westmount?
All of these traits are somehow characterized in "The Trotsky" so well that it becomes part of the comedy in itself. Almost like a parody of my youth.
The story is fairly quirky as is common with Canadian feature films. A boy strongly believes he is the reincarnation of the revolutionary Leon Trotsky. He promptly goes about following the path of his past life, building upon a reputation of starting unionns and causing havoc for any capitalist. He gets taken out of private school and begins to reign chaos with his peers over a controversial strike plan.
One of the lighter seeds in the story is his relationship with an older woman. It grows out to be one of the more amusing focuses of the narrative. You see the real Leon Trotsky first married a woman named Aleksandra Sokolovskaya. So when our modern Leon discovers a beatuiful older woman also named Alex he only feels his reasoning is strenghtened. This catapults him further into this delusion.
The director doesn't really treat this madness as an illness like in most movies with radical protagonists, instead we and the supporting actors simply embrace it as an oddity. Eccentric characters are a norm in Montreal, generally active members. It makes perfect sense.
Over all this movie could be a masterpiece were it just meant as a model for us west end trouble makers of Montreal. As a youth comedy it excels with sharp writing and a very educational source material (how many Americans know about the Russian civil war?). The acting is phenomal from just about everyone. Baruchel plays this inspired revolutionary with shaken assureness, after all he is supposed to be 18. This whole concept would take anyone off balance. Next to "Real Time" this is likely Baruchel's most compelling and rewarding performance.
My only complaint is that the Trotsky was as much a prolific theorist as he was a soldier. The boy isn't as ruthless or as sharp as he could be. Often it feels rather dumbed down and goes for goofy blunt insults over a snearing raid of an attack. The meeting with the school administration could have spent more time his rebutals over going for a theatrical march out. But alas, it's still smarter than "Superbad".
On another note...
There's a lot of attention to be made of the supporting cast too:
Most adult men in the plot are all canniving and over the top rude, but done so convingly in order to help us as viewers feel more supportive of Leon. The father and the principal are both just massive assholes and do it extremely well (Colm Feore and Saul Rubinek). One exception is the most awesome Michael Murphy as a kind of father-like figure who smokes a lot of pot and tends to be on a split screen most of the film talking on a phone. His girlfriend is always very charming but has less to say.
Leon's two friends in his new public school are fantastic. They have this kind of "fools" banter that it becomes kind of Shakespearan as they jump back and fro around Leon. The gay bestfriend played by Ricky Mabe is particularly funny and delivers his lines with a kind of stoner smugness (native to Montreal). He was also in "The Wild Hunt" early this year which was equally a stunning picture. He has a future in film and hopefuly becomes recognized outside of Canada, so far in Hollywood he was in "Zack and Miri make a Porno". I can't for the life of me remember the girl's name and I apologize for that - but she was wickedly crude and fun to watch.