Childstar [2004]

Billed as an eccentric, funny film, this award-winning Canadian import from director/actor Don McKellar (eXistanZ, The Red Violin) is more drama than comedy; a multi-layered, provocative satire of the movie industry and its self-serving exploitation of child celebrities. Childstar is the story of Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall), a spoiled 12-year-old American megastar and his self-absorbed mother, Suzanne (Jennifer Jason Leigh), together in Canada while Taylor films a big budget movie. Shockingly insolent on the exterior, Taylor struggles with conflicting emotions of anger and apathy and, at the point of despair, runs away with a prostitute. Enter Rick Schiller (Don McKellar), a hapless indie filmmaker picking up a paycheck as Taylor's limo-driver who is now enlisted to find the boy before he destroys himself. With camera in hand, Rick can't help but see Taylor's life as a movie while he attempts to engage Taylor as a friend. Perhaps intentionally, this movie-about-a-movie-about-a-movie eschews a single raison d'ĂȘtre in favor of many. At times wry, it is also a sobering statement on America's celebrity culture. Most notable is the film's cinematography--artsy, innovative, and, at times, disturbing. With standout performances by McKellar and Leigh, viewers can't miss the message on child stars explicit in the script: "When they hit puberty, we chew them up and spit them out; they spend the rest of their lives entertaining us in the tabloids." Rated R for extreme language and sexual content. --Lynn Gibson

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