Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel) keeps a board on his bedroom wall with his nine-part plan to emulate the life of Leon Trotsky. We can’t help put notice that it includes items like “7: SOCIALIST UTOPIA!” and “9: Get assassinated.” Leon doesn’t just pattern himself after Trotsky; you see, the Bolshevik revolutionary’s original last name was, in fact, Bronstein. Leon has convinced himself that he is Trotsky reincarnated. “For a Marxist, you make a great Hindu,” muses Alexandra (Emily Hampshire), the grad student he is trying to woo—he’s probably coming on a bit too strong, seeing’s how he keeps telling her that she has the same name as Trotsky’s first wife, and that pair had the same age difference as they do, so they’re destined to be married. Takes a real smoothie to pull off that approach.Jacob Tierney’s The Trotsky is an uncommonly smart and funny indie comedy; it is predominately about teen characters, but it’s not a “teen movie”—it’s brainy and mature, and put together with smooth professionalism. Some of it is a little obvious, some of it is a little easy, and some of it wants to be Rushmore so bad, you’re almost embarrassed for it. But its Rushmore resemblance is something like Rocket Science’s to Election; yes, they’re similar, but once you get past that superficial proximity, you see that it goess off into some pretty entertaining directions of its own.
The Trotsky isn’t quite a great movie—it’s too off-pace, a good fifteen minutes too long, and it puts a few too many bows on at the end—but it’s an enjoyable one. And it’s got a heart, which it reveals subtly and unexpectedly. Tierney directs with an infectious sense of good-natured fun; he can put together a stylish and clever sequence (like the various costumed student factions—Black Panthers, Maoists, etc.—assembling for the “social justice dance”) and slide clever jokes in along the edge of the frame (“A girl dressed as Ayn Rand said you kicked her out!”). The crowd-pleasing ending may be predictable and overdone, but I was all-in by that point; it’s a grin-inducing and rather irresistible picture.