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2 reviews, 8 user ratings

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by Jason Whyte

"Don't you hate it when a director drones on and on?"
4 stars

When “Childstar” screened at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, Don McKellar stood on the extreme right of the stage -- all by himself despite many of the cast and crew present – and did a slightly nervous, warbled-voice of an intro. “It’s so great to see many people from the industry here” he remarks, “but I don’t want to be one of those directors that drones on and on about the movie.” After he gets off stage and the film begins, what should I see but the very same introduction by McKellar’s character Rick Stellar, verbatim, as it opens the story of the experimental filmmaker who encounters a kid who has more power than he can handle.

“Childstar” tells the story about a young actor named Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall) who is a success after appearing on the hit TV show “Family Differences.” The young, high-voiced Taylor has been cast in a blockbuster motion picture that is being shot in Toronto. He and his stage of a mom Suzanne (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are picked up by Rick (McKellar), who drives a limo service and takes an instant liking to Suzanne. Rick then finds himself in a situation where he is to look after Taylor and be his on-set tutor, which doesn’t really work.

Taylor is like a male Lindsay Lohan – he has to party, no matter what. Despite being 12, he is able to get into clubs and order drinks, mostly through Taylor’s co-star Chip Metzger (the hilarious Brendan Fehr from “Roswell”) who was once a child star just like Taylor. There’s also a young model/aspiring actress (Kristin Adams) who catches Taylor’s eye, despite being about ten years older than he. Taylor, at this point, is in a star-funk and never returns back to the set, setting Rick off on a crazy mission to find him.

McKellar has been an interesting talent in Canada for many years. Quiet, polite, observant and also fiercely opinionated, the man is also bitingly funny, as evidenced by not only his work on “Childstar” and the recent festival hit “Clean” but in previous films such as “Last Night” (which he also directed), “Twitch City” and “Waydowntown,” among others. He takes chances and strives to be original and it works. Here, his topic on the big-star aspect in Canada is one that is relevant especially in Toronto and Vancouver, where many big American films are being filmed here, right now.

“Childstar” is a Canadian film but doesn’t look like it, except for the cheapness of the big Hollywood film that is being produced (although that could be argued as satirical of the Canadian films that do look rushed and budget-limited). One of Canada’s top cinematographers, Andre Turpin, was hired by McKellar to shoot the film in widescreen, which gives it an earthy, stylized look which has an interesting characteristic.

It also helps that Mark Rendall is fun to watch as a kid actor on a complete power trip. This is exactly what happens to many of this ilk as they approach stardom, legions of cheering fans and everything they want at their disposal. He works well against the opinionated McKellar, who are both very different people, even if Rick himself wants to get into the industry.

The film festival experience is also handled here. In an amusing finale, the blockbuster film has a premiere at the Toronto Film Festival with a short film at the beginning directed by Rick about the real Taylor Brandon Burns, which leads all the way back to the same hilarious introduction that McKellar himself performed at this year’s Vancouver festival. If only McKellar could introduce every show in the same way.

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originally posted: 10/05/04 03:21:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more in the 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/07/05 Darcy better than i had anticipated 4 stars
4/18/05 Kaya the best film for me at the istanbul film festival this year 5 stars
4/16/05 craig varney this kid grows up to quick 3 stars
1/04/05 Forget it Why, again, is McKellar on screen? 2 stars
9/23/04 Bonzo Dogbandt Great film. 5 stars
9/21/04 Margo really smart and funny 4 stars
9/20/04 denny enjoyable but not in the great class 4 stars
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