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.