Robert Downey Jr.
A Guide… is first-time director Dito Montiel’s autobiographical song to Astoria, Queens—the heartbreak, the bruises, and the unhealed wounds we can’t see.
Like Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Montiel’s film is viciously real. But Montiel doesn’t want to scare us with his life. He wants to share his story, and lets us into his troubled youth. I know what you’re thinking: you’ve seen one troubled hellraising teen film, you’ve seen them all. That may seem the case, but Montiel’s experience goes a long way, and puts A Guide… in a new realm of the sub-genre.
Though a bit jerky in narrative and that it takes a bit to get used to the style, Montiel’s direct approach to the story (and sometimes broken fourth-wall material) enhance the overall experience for the viewer.
The performances all-around are notable, and even Chazz Palminteri, who remains typecast, breaks from his shell and delivers a saddening performance as Dito’s hard-edged father. Shia Labeouf and Robert Downey, Jr. are terrific as well, whose takes on the Dito character back one another up for a well-rounded character that could have fallen straight into cliché. We just have to ignore the miscasting of Shia LaBeouf playing the young Robert Downey, Jr.
The young Dito’s judgments make it hard for us to sympathize at first, but when we find Dito grown and returning to his old stomping grounds, we find the truth to the film in one word: redemption, and how everyone deserves a shot.
The deleted scenes contain optional director commentary:
Shooting Saints: The Making of… (20:10): A very fine doc examining mostly everything you’d want to know and see about the film: attracting stars, Montiel’s style, set footage, and of course, praise for the director. Montiel (whose memoir the film is based upon) comes off as a genuine newcomer, which is a breath of fresh air, considering most Sundance snobs are quite pretentious about their work. Could’ve gone more in-depth into the actual filming of A Guide… but good nevertheless.
The Alternate Opening/Endings (13:30) are nothing more than deleted scenes that could’ve been bookends for the film. Special? Nah. Worth a glance? Why not?
There’s also nearly 20 minutes of Deleted Scenes, most of which are good but don’t necessarily advance the story, though there is more of Antonio’s father, Giuseppe (who was underused), and Dito’s return home. I’d say fans of the film would love these.
An interesting extra is the Rooftop Scene (6:01), which was shot while at the Sundance Screenwriters/Directors Lab. Starring Dito Mondiel himself and actress Helen Dallas, this is a good short, and it’s great to see what kind of material can be produced at the famous Lab.
Rounding out the main features are an interview with Monty (1:32) (a shorter version can be found after the film’s end credits roll) and an audition for Young Laurie (1:52), which are exactly what they sound like.
And finally, the Trailers and Previews.