Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall) is a 12-year-old star known for his role on a popular family TV show. On his show, he's cute and funny. In real life, he's an obnoxious almost-teenager who's demanding and spoiled. To make his latest movie, he's shipped off to Canada with his bored, uncaring, and equally demanding mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They're put in the care of Rick Schiller (Don McKellar), a former college professor who quit his job to make movies-and who's now working as a limo driver. As filming begins, though, Rick becomes more than just Taylor's driver. He soon also takes on the roles of Taylor's tutor and legal guardian-and his mother's lover.
Childstar is a darkly comedic look at the world on the other side of the big screen-giving viewers a peek at the movie-making world and revealing child actors for what they really are. It also shows another side-the broken families, the money-hungry parents, the difficulty of finding real friends, and the impossibility of having a normal childhood or living a normal life. It even shows the child actor's future-though Taylor's costar, Chip (Brendan Fehr), a former child star who battles a fading career and a problem with addiction while trying to gain recognition as an adult.
The theme may not be totally original, but it's well-executed-for the majority of the film. Writer/director Don McKellar creates a captivating story that's insightful as well as amusing. Unfortunately, however, things fall apart toward the end of the film, when Taylor sneaks out and follows Rick's advice to "live a little." He meets a girl, decides he's fallen in love, and disappears from the set-and things go downhill from there. The rather confusing turn of events leads to an ending that's unnecessarily preachy.
As a whole, Childstar is an excellent indie. McKellar plays his role with an understated dry wit that enhances the story. And Rendall is wonderful in his role as the obnoxious yet conflicted child star. Despite its disappointing conclusion, Childstar is a clever and witty film-a must-see for movie-lovers and cynics (and especially for cynical movie-lovers).