The Art Of Getting By Review

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  • The Art Of Getting By film still


MOR teen romance with a dash of inauthentic indie seasoning.

The Art of Getting By might advertise its blagger nous, but unfortunately it doesn’t have a thing to teach us. The debut of writer/director Gavin Wiesen, it’s an easy-going, semi-sweet but rarely successful tale of first love and finding one’s place in the world.

Freddie Highmore plays George Zinavoy, a 17-year-old troubled by misanthropy and academic apathy. Despite his disengagement from his schoolwork he is well-liked by his teachers and the school’s principal, Bill Martinson (Blair Underwood), who collectively recognise his potential, particularly as an artist.

When he chivalrously takes the blame for her smoking violation, George attracts the attention of the fashionable and capricious Sally Howe (Emma Roberts) and the two become inseparable. He develops feelings for her, but it’s a passion which seems destined to remain unrequited as Sally has a history of dating older men and seems to see him only as an endearingly dorky pal. Meanwhile George is presented with the choice of expulsion, or completing the last year’s worth of assignments in three weeks.

Highmore is hitherto best known as the precocious moppet in Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and in casting this delicate actor as a rebellious outsider The Art of Getting By unfortunatelymarks itself out as a film with zero cool.

Although Highmore is likable, talented and terrific in moments of vulnerability, from the outset it’s hard to reconcile him with a character who doggedly refuses to turn in his homework and calls the principle by his first name. Roberts too makes for a limp leading lady.

It’s a film which makes scant attempt to lift itself out from the cinematic doldrums and whose script is no more than a collection of clichés. There’s no flesh on its bones, with underexplored domestic discord and Rita Wilson as George’s mum Vivian no more than a cursory sketch of a character.

It also features what is tantamount to a cameo from Alicia Silverstone – playing George’s English teacher Ms. Herman – an actress most fondly remembered as a teen herself in Clueless. It’s a lazy reference to a film that was (for better or worse) embraced by a generation, by one which seems destined to disappear.

The Art of Getting By is a wispy, forgettable debut which, like George, seems to be merely playing at being an outsider. In the end, although watchable, it lacks character, suffers from poor casting decisions and fails to convincingly set itself apart from its peers.

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