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Movie ReviewsRating: 3.5 of 5 yaps

The Art of Getting By

I liked the idea of “The Art of Getting By” more than the movie they actually made. It’s about a disaffected New York teenager coasting through life without any ambition or direction. It boasts an affecting performance by Freddie Highmore and for awhile it seems to have a “Harold and Maude” vibe, which is a very good thing.

The film is written and directed by Gavin Wiesen, making his feature-film debut. It’s serious, earnest and dares to treat high school-age characters like actual human beings harboring thoughts and contradictions. Ultimately, though, the movie spins away from itself and falls into familiar tropes about boys and girls and what happens when they’re too scared to say how they feel.

Still, if it’s ultimately a failure then it’s a well-meaning one — the kind made by people who care about storytelling and don’t just want to blow things up for a living. We’ve already got one Michael Bay, and that’s enough. We need more Gavin Wiesens, or at least more movies from this one.

Highmore, showing hardly a trace of his native British accent, plays George Zinavoy, a senior at the prestigious Morgan School in Manhattan. George doodles all day in his textbooks and never turns in any homework. The teachers and faculty treat him with a sort of resigned patience, hoping their frequent expressions of disappointment will get him back on track. It’s not working.

“I’m the Teflon slacker,” George says, with a hint of boastfulness.

The principal, played by Blair Underwood, has to endure having George call him “Bill,” since it’s apparently one of those progressive schools that only the very rich could come up with to indulge their children. I can only imagine what would’ve happened if I’d called my 11th-grade algebra teacher, Mrs. White, by her first name. I think my keister would still be wearing the impression of her foot.

I greatly enjoyed Jarlath Conroy as the art teacher, who curses at students, punches them affectionately and demands they pour their souls into their work. He’d be an inspiration to hundreds of students, except that he’d get canned after less than a week on the job. Alicia Silverstone plays the frumpy literature instructor, a fact that instantly made me feel ancient.

George’s mother (Rita Wilson) is harried and distracted, and his stepdad (Sam Robards) thinks their relationship can consist entirely of stern pep talks.

George falls into an unlikely friendship with Sally (Emma Roberts), a pretty, popular girl who sees in him something deeper than the callow rich boys constantly hitting on her. Tall and gangly, with unkempt hair falling in his eyes, George wanders about in an overcoat not because he’s trying to make a statement, but simply because he likes the protection of extra layers.

It doesn’t take much foresight to see what’s coming. George and Sally spend much of the school year bonding and growing closer, except George is so enraptured with his outsider status that he can’t bring himself to do anything as obvious as kiss the girl.

There’s also a slightly older artist, Dustin (Michael Angarano), an effortlessly cool dude who becomes George’s mentor and later, swept up by a wave of inevitability, a competitor.

“The Art of Getting By” is a well-intentioned story about a slacker. Pity that a movie with so much potential took the easy way out.

3.5 Yaps

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11 Responses to “The Art of Getting By”

  1. Cameron says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I thought Freddie Highmore played his role beautifully. He was full of teenage angst and confusion, and I would think that there would be large number of teens that could really relate to him.

  2. Leslie G says:

    I would not pay to see this in theaters. I didn’t hate it but it was not great. It could have been better. I am not sure exactly what I did not like about it, maybe it was just too slow. There were a few funny things like when George lays in his bed forever and his mom just keeps coming in to check on him. George also has a few funny lines and his character is just funny in the way he is. And the art teacher was great. I am not sure I would even rent it at redbox with all the better movies out there.

  3. Hollie says:

    This movie was just "ok" my teenage daughter and her friend said the same thing. It wasn’t bad, just a little bit boring in some parts. I like the basis of the story line, it just needed more depth. I will say though that Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts are cute together!

  4. john mojzuk says:

    This movie was a ummmm, sorta, kinda hand wavy, Only 2 people we talked with after the movie like it. That was 2 out of 15. It was OK, but….

  5. Rebekah says:

    I hadn’t heard much about this movie, but I actually really enjoyed it. It wasn’t a remarkable movie, but very straightforward and I felt I could relate to it because I can remember not having a clue what I was going to do with my life at 18. I thought that Emma Roberts and Freddie Highmore did a wonderful job with this movie.

  6. Amy says:

    I think I will take my daughter to this one. I think she would like it. I think the combination of Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts will be cute.

  7. Sarah s says:

    This movie was cute. Nothing spectacular and not really something that I felt was life changing. I thought maybe some high school graduates might enjoy it. It definately was about just getting by, and the love story was cute and girly. My favorite part, bring a teacher myself, was the art teacher who was very blunt and gave him a final assignment of expresses himself through his artwork. Ah the beauty of art. Of course he honors the girl he’s lusting after in his artwork. Cute but not remarkable.

  8. Rebecca says:

    For a teen romantic comedy it seems cute and all that a teen romantic comedy needs to be. Shy love story that ends up in the guy getting the girl, with a few witty lines mixed in. I think I’m convincing myself to see it, ha. Not waiting in line at midnight kind of movie, but a $5 movie with your best girlfriend kind of night.

  9. Jon says:

    It was very hard to feel bad for this young man who was portrayed as flat out lazy. Maybe 5 years ago the audience could have felt something for the young man, but in today worlds where everyone has to work hard to find work, I didn’t feel for a rich boy who just wasn’t up to working hard. I thought the man character honestly just needed some one to whoop his a_s and then the movie could have ended about an hour earlier. This is a redbox movie for sure.

  10. Lindsey says:

    This movie was good. It was a bit predictable…I still liked it. Young love is sweet.

  11. kelli says:

    this sounds like one of those movies like "breakfast club" you already know what is going to happen and it is so predictable, yet you still find yourself stopping the remote to catch it one more time when you see it showing on a saturday afternoon! after reading the review i think i still wanna watch, i just think now ill save my 8.50 and wait for red box to pick it up! :)