Review: The Art of Getting By
PLOT: George (Freddie Highmore) is a depressed teen who's managed to make it through most of his senior year without ever having done his homework. Meanwhile, he falls in love with Sally (Emma Roberts) a popular girl who admires his rebelliousness, but also toys with his affections.
Originally reviewed as part of my Sundance coverage, when the film was originally titled HOMEWORK.
REVIEW: THE ART OF GETTING BY is yet another of the films that boutique distribution giant Fox Searchlight picked up at Sundance this year. It covers pretty familiar territory as far as these things go. You have a quirky teen protagonist, who's a slacker despite being wise beyond his years. He's got troubled, barely present parents (including Rita Wilson as his mom), and he harbors a crush on the school's most unattainable girl. Ho-hum.
To be fair to writer/director Gavin Weisen, THE ART OF GETTING BY's not that bad a film, and with Fox distributing it, I'd say it has a more than fair chance of being a modest hit once it gets released. My problem with it is that THE ART OF GETTING BY is just such a generic teen comedy, and seems to be trying way too hard to be another JUNO- complete with the hipper than hip dialogue, and the hip indie-rock soundtrack. One might even call it a JUNO-clone. Seeing it next to films like TAKE SHELTER, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, or even LIKE CRAZY just drives home it's ultimate mediocrity, although I suspect that if I were to see this outside the film festival setting, I might have enjoyed it more.
One thing that THE ART OF GETTING BY manages to do is that, at the age of twenty-nine, it's managed to make me feel like an old fart. This is due to Freddie Highmore being in the lead role. When the hell did Highmore become a teen? It seems like just yesterday, he was the precocious eight-year old adopted by Johnny Depp's J.M Barrie in FINDING NEVERLAND, but here, Highmore appears to be all grown up. If he's a teen, than what does that make me? Gulp.
For his part, Highmore is quite good as the rebellious George, although I must admit that I found his no homework scheme to be a bit insufferable. He's tortured and fatalistic in a real emo kind of way, and it never rings true. Some may call him a rebel, but to me he's just whiny. Nevertheless, Highmore does his best, and the character comes off as less annoying than he'd normally be with anyone other than Highmore in the lead.
I was less impressed by Emma Roberts as the object of his affections. It's better than her recent film, IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY, but I really don't see what the big deal is about her. Other than being the daughter of Eric Roberts, and the niece of Julia Roberts, has she done anything to justify all of the exposure she's been getting? Sure, she's pretty, but to me she's not much of an actress, at least not yet. In her defence, she has absolutely nothing to work with here, as her character's about as one note as they come.
Michael Angarano, who blew me away a few years ago in SNOW ANGELS, turns up as the quintessential tortured-artiste, who becomes a mentor to Highmore, and naturally, makes a play for Roberts, giving us some third act conflict. Probably the one truly original thing about his character is that even when he's trying to steal Roberts from Highmore, he's never portrayed as a jerk; which was somewhat refreshing.
I feel kinda bad panning THE ART OF GETTING BY, as it's really not that bad of a film, but compared to the great films showcased at Sundance, it really felt like it didn't belong, hence the low rating I'm giving it. If you want a decent teen comedy, you might want to give this a go, but I recommend either waiting for LIKE CRAZY, or just renting EASY A. Both are far superior.