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Movie Review: ‘The Art of Getting By’

June 17, 2011

As an afternoon air-conditioned diversion, The Art of Getting By suffices just fine, but ultimately it’s too bland for me to give it a strong recommendation. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it just lacks any zip or enthusiasm, thus it seems quite boring. We’ve seen the same premise countless times before (Adventureland, The Squid and the Whale, Igby Goes Down), and this just doesn’t breathe any new life into the genre. Despite some fine performances, this film is a dud.

Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) stars as an angst-ridden high school senior (George) who has blown off so many of his senior classes that he is likely to be expelled from his New York City private school. His teachers are disgusted by his blatant disregard for his untapped talent; he spends most of his classes doodling in a notebook, despite being a perfectly bright and capable student. He stumbles into a friendship with Sally, a beautiful fellow senior who is struggling to find her way in the world. Together they commiserate about their unhappy home lives (Sally’s mom is a slut! George’s stepdad gives a shit about him!) and their mutual lack of direction. I wish I could say otherwise, but that’s pretty much it. There’s a little “are they going to hook up” tension, but the rest of the movie is fairly dull. It’s a drag to see George (a self anointed “teflon slacker”) squander his opportunities, particularly in today’s economic climate. You kind of want to shake some sense into his pretentious ass. Dustin (Michael Angarano) complicates matters when he morphs from being George’s art mentor to romantic rival.

Since the story falls flat, the main reason to see the film is for the performances. Emma Roberts is exquisitely lovely as the manic-pixie-dreamgirl. This is the first time I have seen her in a movie, and she is a natural. Freddy Highmore imbibes his character with just enough charm to keep him from being completely unlikable. Rita Wilson plays his harried mother, Alicia Silverstone is the lone teacher who still believes in him, and Elizabeth Reaser is Sally’s slutty mom.

This is the first full-length feature for writer and director¬†Gavin Wiesen. Although the film only clocks in at an hour and twenty minutes, it feels much longer, never a good sign. Wiesen’s source material is weak, but he manages to salvage some decent performances from the mess. Skip this one unless you are a rabid fan of the teenage angst genre.

Rating 2.5/5

The Art of Getting By is rated PG-13. Written and Directed by Gavin Wiesen. Starring Freddy Highmore, Emma Roberts, Elizabeth Reaser, Rita Wilson, Michael Angarano.


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