Writer-direct-star Pat Mills is David, former star of the kids TV show Wacky Street, now an employment-free failure in deep denial of his sexuality, his alcoholism, and even the Stage 3 melanoma eating away at his shoulder.
In a final desperate bid to make rent, he poses as a high school guidance counsellor, getting past the dumbest principal since Eve Arden in Grease and welcoming troubled Goths, fatties, and other messed-up teens into his office for liquor and weed-fuelled gabfests.
“I want you to be an inspiration for all the other sluts out there,” he tells one baffled little sexpot.
If the premise here seems unforgivably stupid, it is. But Guidance is also piss-your-pants funny, giving us free reign to be roused by all its bad behaviour, especially with such a strong supporting cast to orbit Mills’ own winning performance (in particular Zahra Bentham as the sullen Jabrielle, who finds herself in something like a Thelma and Louise scenario with her “pathologically immature” counsellor.)
If Guidance struggles to find the right tone for its mounting provocations, it never yields to the kind of flat-out cynicism that’s fashionable in Hollywood comedies, while a seemingly tacked-on epilogue suggests that Mills—himself a recovered child actor from YTV’s You Can’t Do That on Television—has too big of a heart, thankfully, to completely bury his onscreen alter ego in self-loathing.
Guidance screens at International Village on August 15 (7 p.m.) as part of the 2015 Vancouver Queer Film Festival.