Written and directed by Jacob Tierney The Trotsky stars Jay Baruchel (She’s Out of My League Tropic Thunder) as Leon Bronstein a 17-year–old who believes that he is the reincarnation of October Revolution leader Leon Trotsky whose real surname also happened to be Bronstein. Upon realizing that his father’s employees only receive a half-hour break for lunch he stages a protest and subsequently a strike. His father David (Saul Rubinek) quells the demonstration quickly by having his son carted off in handcuffs. As punishment for his attempted revolution Leon's private school tuition is cut off and he’s forced to enroll in a public school.
Before he begins the new school year Leon attempts to sue his father and tries to enlist the help of a former protester Frank McGovern (Michael Murphy). While basically stalking the man he meets his daughter Alexandra (Emily Hampshire). (The real Trotsky’s first wife was also named Alexandra and just like the movie’s Alexandra apparently couldn’t stand her Leon either.)
At his new school he joins the Student Union humorously thinking that is an actual union. Led by Dwight (Jesse Rath) who Leon refers to as “my Stalin ” he unknowingly chooses “social justice” as the theme for the school dance. He then asks two union members Jimmy (Justin Bradley) and Caroline (Kaniehtiio Horn) if they want to form a real union in order for the students to have equal representation. To prove to the administration that they are not the generation of apathy they organize a student walkout much to the chagrin of Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore who himself sports a peculiarly Trotsy–esque beard).
While a few online reviews have compared The Trotsky with Wes Anderson's Rushmore this is not the case at all. Yes both films feature awkward actors playing awkward students who fall for women that are older than them but that's where the similarities end. Rushmore degenerates into a witty catch-as-catch can between Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray for the affections of Olivia William's character while The Trotsky is in a quirky way a biopic of the historical Leon Trotsky told through the life of a misguided boy.
We've seen this kind of movie many times before: A charismatic kid rallies the varying masses of his school to band together and fight the system. But this formula is adhered to because it is a part of the story – Baruchel's Leon actually believes that he is the Bolshevik reincarnated and does his best to follow his life perfectly. The film takes what is tried and true in films like this and finds an innovative way to tell its story.
The actors do all that they can with the material and make the formulaic Trotsky enjoyable especially Rubinek as Leon's father David and Baruchel who has yet another outlet for his quirks that endear him to so many moviegoers. Tierney’s writing and direction are fairly tight and he should be commended on his sophomore effort. He tries to present an abridged version of Trotsky’s life and succeeds so well that by end of the film you almost hope for a sequel so this inventive way to tell a biography (or even a pseudo–biopic) and Leon Bronstein (the real and the film’s) life can be carried out to its grim conclusion.
Based on the best-selling book by Mark Foster Game tells the remarkable real-life story of Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf). He was a working-class immigrant kid who in the early 1900s turned the privileged world of golf on its ear. The story begins with Francis working as a caddie at a posh country club where he masters the game by quietly practicing on his own. His French-born father (Elias Koteas) thinks he's wasting his time and should be earning an honest wage but Francis is far too smitten with the game to give it up. Francis finally gets his big break when an amateur spot opens up at the 1913 U.S. Open. With a feisty 10-year-old caddie named Eddie (Josh Flitter) by his side egging him on Francis plays the best he ever has. He eventually finds himself facing off against the sport's undisputed champion Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) a U.S. Open winner and six-time British Open champion (a record that still stands today). Their legendary battle changes the face of the sport forever--but I wouldn't necessarily call it the greatest game ever.
Game is one of those juicy little biopics actors can really sink their teeth into. Starting with our young lead LaBeouf (Holes) is sufficiently determined as the guy playing against impossible odds. His Francis with his liquid brown eyes and winning smile is full of optimism and raw talent that propels him into the majors. And he looks pretty authentic swinging a golf club too. Still it may be time for LaBeouf to move on from the Disney family fare and do something grittier sort of like what he showed in Constantine. Dillane--who was so achingly good in The Hours as Virginia Woolf's beleaguered husband--also does a fine job as the legendary Vardon a man haunted by his own demons. In a way Game is a story about both men who have more in common than they realize. Although a top professional in the sport Vardon has to fight against the elitist golfing community's prejudices. You see Vardon grew up dirt poor on the plains of Scotland and because of his background was never permitted into any "gentleman's" clubs. The cast of colorful supporting players add to the film especially Flitter as the caustic but encouraging Eddie. He may be small but he packs a wallop. The last shot of the movie features Francis and Eddie walking off the golf course at sunset evoking the classic Casablanca ending line "This is the start of a beautiful friendship"--which apparently really happened. The real-life Eddie and Francis remained friends for the rest of their lives.
The main slice against Game is that it's about golf. Besides comedies such as Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore a serious movie about the game really isn't going to stir your soul say like football or baseball. But actor-turned-director Bill Paxton--who made his directorial debut with the creepy Frailty--takes the story and keeps it convincingly affecting. Much like Seabiscuit it's the real-life historical context that makes Game even more compelling. Paxton painstakingly details how the game was played at the turn of the century--and who was allowed to play it. The whole discriminatory arrogance surrounding the game makes the stakes even higher for our heroes. Vardon had a score to settle while Ouimet simply became the game's new hero paving the way for legendary whiz kids like Tiger Woods to step up on the green. Paxton also views Game as a Western. The final golf round between Vardon and Ouimet is the ultimate shootout á la the OK Corral in which the camera angles are inventive--a bird's eye view of the ball sailing through the air or gliding on the green into the hole. Plus he keeps the tension as taut as he can considering the less than exhilarating subject matter. Oh come on who isn't a sucker for a good sports underdog story even if it is golf?