Childstar Don McKellar

At last, a Canadian film that won't cause burning eyes or unnecessary ennui in unsuspecting viewers. Writer/director Don McKellar stars as Rick Schiller, a sad-sack experimental filmmaker who pays the rent as a driver; he meets his match in visiting child star Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall), who's in Toronto to shoot a dubious kiddie flick with militaristic overtones. Despite Taylor's legendary "difficulty," Schiller manages to bond with the kid, date his manipulative mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and witness first-hand how the Hollywood machine destroys everything human that can't be reconfigured as profit. There's a slight tinge of hypocrisy to the film, as Schiller frequently takes the high ground as he gets into bed with Leigh; he's as much a parasite as anyone else in the film, and like every other Canadian he rationalises his relationship to American cultural imperialism rather than do something about it. But though it perplexingly damns the practice of child acting while using a child actor, there's no denying that the film is one complete thought with some genuinely interesting digressions; for once, the cast seems to be human rather than Madame Tussaud figurines and at least want to have some fun beyond the thrill of self-flagellation. Reservations aside, the film's modicum of warmth and playfulness is something that the rest of our countrymen would do well to emulate, and will entertain even the committed hater of Canadian film, which is to say, pretty much everybody. Extras include a "making of" documentary that's more entertaining than the average supplement, and a commentary with McKellar, editor Reginald Harkema and composer Cristopher Dedrick that's as much about thin in-jokes as genuine technical information. (TVA/Sony)