THE TROTSKY (2010)

 

This was the official website for the 2010 film, The Trotsky. The content below is from the site's 2010 archived page and other outside sources including Rotten Tomato reviews.‚Äč

 

Rating:  NR
Genre: Art House & International, Comedy
Directed By: Jacob Tierney
Written By: Jacob Tierney
In Theaters: May 5, 2010  Wide
On DVD: Dec 14, 2010
Box Office: $439,880.00
Runtime: 113 minutes
Studio: Park Ex

 

An unusually intense teenager gets the idea that his name defines his destiny in this offbeat comedy. Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel) is a young man who has made the discovery that his birth name is the same as that of Leon Trotsky, the celebrated Russian revolutionary and socialist theorist. This coincidence leads Leon to believe that he is the reincarnation of Trotsky and it is his destiny to follow his path as closely as possible -- which is a bit difficult when you have rich parents and attend an upscale private school in Montreal. Leon's father (Saul Rubinek) gives his son a part-time job in one of his clothing factories, and within a day Leon is leading his fellow workers in a sit-down strike. Father isn't amused and punishes Leon by making him attend public school, but there the world-be revolutionary finds new ways to battle fascism -- which in this case is represented by Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore) and Mrs. Davis (Domini Blythe), a teacher eager to give her students detention. Leon's pursuit of social justice causes him to fall in with Frank (Michael Murphy), a burned-out activist-turned-college professor, but Leon also finds himself infatuated with Frank's current girlfriend -- who, like Trotsky's great love, is named Alexandra (Emily Hampshire) and is nine years older than he. Directed by Jacob Tierney, The Trotsky was an official selection at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.

TOMATOMETER  Critics 85% | Audience 71%

CRITICS REVIEWS

 

Fitfully charming and sitcom cute.

May 14, 2010

Stephen Cole Globe and Mail Top Critic

Tierny's script is smart and funny although some of the jokes are likely over the heads of a teen audience, who may not be up on their Russian revolutionary lore.

The Trotsky

  • Written and Directed by Jacob Tierney
  • Starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Geneviève Bujold, Saul Rubinek, Colm Feore and Michael Murphy
  • Classification: 14A

Fitfully charming and sitcom cute, The Trotsky (it even sounds like a Seinfeld episode) is the story of a Montreal high school kid who believes he's the reincarnation of Lev Davidovich Bronstein. Or as history knows him, Leon Trotsky, second-in-command of the Russian Revolution.

The film begins with Leon (Jay Baruchel) organizing workers in protest at his father's garment factory. Before long, his mother shows up from tennis lessons to offer moral support and a stack of tuna salad sandwiches. "Maw-um," Leon complains, "it's a hunger strike!"

Tired of being vilified, dad (Saul Rubinek) announces he's cutting off Leon's private-school payments. Mr. Permanent Revolution is exiled to public school, where he'll actually have to mingle with the proletariat. The Trotskyplayfully exaggerates its young hero's dilemma by referencing the Odessa steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin, as we see an unattended baby carriage bounce down a steep staircase with little Leon bawling away inside.

That's a great sight gag, even if it's been milked before in Naked Gun 33 1/3 and Woody Allen's Bananas. Come to think of it, those wooly entertainments, not Sergei Eisenstein's 1926 post-revolution rallying cry, would seem the true inspiration for writer-director Jacob Tierney's eager-to-please comedy.

And that's okay. Dressed in a serious suit and meticulously formal in all manner of speech, Baruchel does a winning impersonation of a doggedly patient revolutionary hero - a young man who believes he is sailing on the tide of history. At one point, Leon falls in love with a decade-older graduate student (Emily Hampshire). She drinks too much at a party and, against her better judgment, falls into bed with him.

Hours later, they have to race off (every morning for Leon is a rendezvous with destiny). But perhaps the older woman isn't quite, how shall we say this - ready. "Do you think you need a shower?" always helpful Leon wonders aloud.

Leon's skirmishes with his parents and an officious public-school principal, Mr. Berkhoff (Colm Feore), a stern disciplinarian who has a framed portrait of a German shepherd atop his desk, are also scattered with laughs. The Trotsky goes down easily and, for what it's worth, is better mannered than most contemporary youth comedies.

Still, the film would have to be considered at least a mild disappointment. Trotsky barging through modern day North America, turning a bourgeois, West Montreal Jewish family upside down, then creating a riot in an affluent, complacent local high school, is a brilliant comic idea. The Trotskyshould be at least as much fun as Pump Up the Volume (1990), another call for teenage revolution from a Montreal filmmaker (Allan Moyle).

Certainly, the movie should be more provocative. Leon's specific problems with his dad, his upbringing, Montreal, capitalism, the way the world does and doesn't work, have to be a bigger part of any story entitled The Trotsky. And the film ought to have more to say about Leon's comrades, the high school kids he's hoping to lead in the Fourth International. Or would that be the Fifth?

Tierney clearly knows his Trotsky. The film ends with a shrewd sequence that has Leon wondering about the resolve of his fellow revolutionaries. The same thought occurred to Trotsky, who, late in life, before the murderous ice pick descended in Mexico, wrote: "We would be compelled to acknowledge that Stalinism was rooted not in the backwardness of the country, but in the congenital incapability of the proletariat to be a ruling class."

 

May 13, 2010

Linda Barnard  Toronto Star Top Critic

Starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Geneviève Bujold and Colm Feore. Directed by Jacob Tierney. 112 minutes.

The Trotsky: Revolution for the teenaged masses

Jay Baruchel stars as a Montreal high school student who is convinced he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky.

Take a day off, Ferris Bueller. There’s a new high school revolutionary in town and his goal is no slacker empire. He may be Grade 12 student Leon Bronstein to the world, but he knows that in truth, he’s the reincarnation of Russian firebrand Leon Trotsky.

Shot in Montreal and proudly so — there’s a mix of French and English spoken and the streets will be familiar to anyone who has spent time there — Canadian director Jacob Tierney’s The Trotsky is made with a liberal nod to John Hughes’ teen-driven comedies of the 1980s, with Jay Baruchel all but running off with the picture in his battered leather bookbag as the baby Bolshevik.

But the supporting cast is so good — especially much-missed Geneviève Bujold as an endlessly patient Montreal education department superintendent Denise Archambault — that this is no one-note hymn to the workers.

Leon (Baruchel) doesn’t especially care if he’s working Archambault’s last nerve, along with that of his principal (Colm Feore). Feore, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to Vladimir Lenin and Tierney has the actor strike heroic poses straight off the front page of Hammer and Sickle Monthly for a running joke that doesn’t get stale.

Leon has been working toward revolution ever since he started to connect the dots and drew a straight line from the early 20th-century Russian workers’ leader to his bedroom in a privileged Montreal neighbourhood. He lives his life to match his alter ego’s, following cue cards posted on his bedroom wall to remind him what Trotsky did when, from birth to his fatal encounter with an ice pick. He has to meet Lenin by age 21 (“hurry up,” the card prods) and exile (anywhere) is looming. And then there’s the matter of meeting and marrying an older woman, preferably named Alexandra.

Dressed in skinny ties and with owlish glasses, his hair done up in Trotsky-like Eraserhead fashion, Leon doesn’t seem to be aware he looks like the king of the geeks. His sincerity and single-mindedness may be admirable to some, but not his long-suffering father, David (Saul Rubinek). He made his fortune in the rag trade and is weary of his son’s ridiculous behavior. The last straw is Leon’s attempt to entice the workers at his father’s factory to join him in a hunger strike. Dad packs Leon off to public school — just like his hero was as a youth. You want to be Trotsky? Here’s your bus pass, kid.

Leon sees his new school as a fresh opportunity, although not without challenges. “Too bad about the fascists,” he shrugs.

He begins his march to liberation of the oppressed high school masses by sitting in the detention room with the persecuted “in solidarity” and organizing a dance with a social justice theme. Maybe the student union could be more than a clandestine room to sneak smokes, he earnestly suggests. But like all great men of history, Leon meets some opposition from his peers. “Are you my Stalin, Dwight?” he asks one mocking kid.

He finds help by badgering retired revolutionary Frank McGovern (Michael Murphy), now a law prof at McGill and wait, who’s this? He has a gorgeous PhD student named Alexandra who just happens to be 10 years older than Leon. You call it fate; Leon knows it’s his destiny.

Emboldened by love (unrequited though it may be) and his mission, Leon demands the students form their own union and proves he’s not afraid to push hard to get it while working the press like an old pro. Watch for a laugh-out-loud bit at the expense of eTalk Canada host Ben Mulroney.

Tierney’s script is smart and funny and although some of the jokes are likely over the heads of a teen audience, who may not be up on their Russian revolutionary lore. And the movie does drag a bit — a couple of scenes add little except minutes to the runtime.

Baruchel is a joy to watch as Leon, a twitchily confident character who is completely single-minded about his mission, unaware that his manner and dress set him up as the person most likely to be beaten up for his lunch money. His skill with the character makes us forget Baruchel is approaching 30, he’s that convincing as a teen, even one who is as much of an outsider as Leon — and happily so.

 

 

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REVIEWS AUDIENCE

 

Adam W ***½ October 10, 2016

An interesting story about a young Canadian man trying to start a Communist Union at his highschool.

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galvynfernandes2010  ***** June 26, 2016

When it doesn't matter who we are, when we are a great mind like Trotsky. When it does matter who we are, when we are the bosses son, rebelling. When it doesn't matter who we are when we are violating work procedures and trespassing, and need to be escorted out. When we know who we are when we are right at home. When others know who we are and who everyone else is when we are one big happy dysfunctional family.When it doesn't matter who we are when we are the last and only ones. When who we are is how we were brought up, seen by others. When who we are is the problem, when we are just seen as a kid. When who we are is a reincarnation of a socialist great, and sound completely crazy. When who wecare, we exactly know when we are coming straight from the history books. When who needs guidance, when we are emulating our hero from a young age to adulthood. When who we are, others have questions of the authencity. When who we are, others await, as we have heard of our actions. When who we are, we naturally adapt to our surroundings and environment. When who we are we see we are needed when see everything we stand for is being trampled. When who othersbare, is what makes who we are much easy when we are rivals. When who we are that makes other people who they are is kind of scary and creepy. When naturally we must be challenged for our views and actions when we are great debater. When the idea of who we are is quite flattering.

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Austin P. Austin P. ***½ May 25, 2016

A fine movie for intellectuals and those with a basic understanding of communism. Accurate in its history and quotations. Interesting plotline & good lighting/setting.

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Ryan M **** August 20, 2015

A witty script and an equally bright performance from Baruchel make the Trotsky a gem of a film.

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Dimitri P ***** August 18, 2015

Inspiring for those who believed in Revolution.

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Maximilien D ***½ August 16, 2015

Quirky and charming comedy intended for young adults but shooting higher than that. Set in Montreal, the character of Leon manages to be funny but serious in his quest to start a communist revolution, reminding me of my college years.

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Jerome P J**** June 2, 2015

This is a great little movie. It's smart and funny and engaging. A good mix of new ideas with the conventions of the genre. I really like how the characters are grounded with just enough back story. That depth really helped the story keep moving. Nobody just was there. If I made it, I'd be proud.

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Andrew S * ½ May 20, 2015

An unusually intense teenager gets the idea that his name defines his destiny in this offbeat comedy. Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel) is a young man who has made the discovery that his birth name is the same as that of Leon Trotsky, the celebrated Russian revolutionary and socialist theorist. This coincidence leads Leon to believe that he is the reincarnation of Trotsky and it is his destiny to follow his path as closely as possible -- which is a bit difficult when you have rich parents and attend an upscale private school in Montreal. Leon's father (Saul Rubinek) gives his son a part-time job in one of his clothing factories, and within a day Leon is leading his fellow workers in a sit-down strike. Father isn't amused and punishes Leon by making him attend public school, but there the world-be revolutionary finds new ways to battle fascism -- which in this case is represented by Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore) and Mrs. Davis (Domini Blythe), a teacher eager to give her students detention. Leon's pursuit of social justice causes him to fall in with Frank (Michael Murphy), a burned-out activist-turned-college professor, but Leon also finds himself infatuated with Frank's current girlfriend -- who, like Trotsky's great love, is named Alexandra (Emily Hampshire) and is nine years older than he.

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Bill C. Bill C. **½ May 12, 2015

Jay Baruchel is mildly amusing, even occasionally endearing, in this otherwise irritating movie. Could Montrealer Jacob Tierney have trotted out any more has-been Canadian actors to snag all of those Province of Quebec film credits?

Like most young adult males, The Trotsky is not nearly as smart as it pretends to be.

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Madmartigan Madmartigan ** March 22, 2015

Points for creativity, but the story and movie overall weren't worth my time.

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Garwin S ***½ October 26, 2014

As dismissive as I am about Canadian movies (especially those coming out of Quebec), on average, they certainly have more hits than Australian ones. This is another of those small budget but entertainingly imaginative movies about an adolescent with an overinflated sense of social justice.

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Nadya N ****½ September 12, 2014

I loved The Trotsky ! its funny and original and got right the Russian revolutionary socialist Leon Trotsky. also, Jay Baruchel did a good job as Leon Bronstein!

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Michael T ***½ September 5, 2014

Very funny, up to a point.

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Tanvir M****  May 13, 2014

I was wondering how it came out through the Hollywood system and then realised that it's a Canadian film. A very smart and offbeat dramedy which requires some knowledge of Russian history, but pays off in abundance. This is about a teenager who believes he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky and attempts to follow his footsteps. Amusing, entertaining, insightful and at times inspiring.

 

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