Title : The Trotsky
Date : 23 June 2010
Author(s) : Sophie Pascal
Blurb: Review of the Montreal-based comedy, The Trotsky.
Word Count : 651
It’s the story of Leon Bronstein (the extraordinary Jay Baruchel), a young man from the mostly Anglophone West End of Montreal, and who at the age of “17 and three quarters,” truly believes that he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky. So of course he attempts to unionize the student body at his high school, not too successfully at first because people think he has a few marbles missing…. It’s witty, the situations are comic, and against all odds — and against all common sense — he manages to get the students to endorse his manifesto. The adults are depicted as conservative, mean, disillusioned, and spineless, while the youth who carry the future of humanity on their backs are bored in History class. Lo and behold, Leon is here to save the slumbering revolutionaries from themselves and avert their exploitation by the fascists that rule the school system.
One would have to wonder why Trotsky would garner the least bit of interest in any Montreal high school student today. Perhaps the idea is that no one in Quebec is really looking for heroes anymore, or that in Canada, folks are too comfortable to get upset about anything, let alone organize a revolution. The frightful challenge of the day is “Boredom vs Apathy.” Ultimately, the adults begin to see Leon in a different light. Beyond his quirky and flawless political banter that comes straight out of books on his namesake nemesis, they start to see him as the embodiment of their own passionate heydays of civil disobedience and commitment to social change.
The Trotsky has a similar bilingual/bicultural glow as Bon Cop Bad Cop, the most popular and biggest box office hit in Canadian history. No wonder, it was produced by the same Kevin Tierney, whose next project is entitled French Immersion… “That’s our identity: That’s just who we are!” he says. “I am a certifiable anglais from Quebec.” Although there is some of that same Anglo-Franco mix, this time around it is mostly in English.
Take a Jewish family with a Gentile French Canadian stepmother (the always exquisite Anne-Marie Cadieux) who takes on the classic traits of the Jewish mother — “Do the revolution, but eat first!” It’s funny and endearing. As the high school principal, Colm Feore is delectable as usual, even if he predictably “loses” the battle to keep the demoniacally rigid order at the school.
But if the underlying story line of this film is a throwback to the good old days of social upheaval and the quest for justice, you have to wonder how this kid could ever exist in a post “révolution tranquille” Quebec era of appeased mores and quietly divided social realities: in one scene, there is a discussion in class as to how Leon’s “revolution” was going to affect local society, and Leon blurts out, “The French don’t care!”
This ‘feel-good’ movie has the potential to be commercially successful as a wholesome, homegrown Montreal teen flick, with a very local flavour –The Trotsky is filmed entirely in Montreal, Montreal West, to be exact – whose recipe, as Feore stated it on the red carpet at the May 10 Montreal opening, will probably be “borrowed” by the Americans, as it was for the Bon Cop remake in English and Spanish. “The United States don’t have this sort of tongue-and-cheek cultural duality. This is a totally new take that is bound to generate interest for Canadian and Quebecois cinema. And Jay (Baruchel) has a Canadian flag tattooed on his heart…!”