Wednesday, June 15, 2011

'The Art of Getting By'

I saw an advance screening of “The Art of Getting By” (PG-13) last night at Muvico in West Palm Beach.  The romantic comedy, distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, is a first feature for writer-director Gavin Wiesen.  It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Festival, though under the title, “Homework.”
The main character, George, is a senior at a prestigious high school in New York City.  He is into doodling and drawing all over his school books, rather than using them for actual school work.  His lack of completing homework assignments makes him frequently visit Principal Bill Martinson (Blair Underwood), and creates a looming threat of expulsion, instead of graduation.
George lives with his mother (Rita Wilson) and step-father in a well-to-do area of Manhattan.  He goes to a great school (which kind of has the “Gossip Girl” vibe) paid by his father, a business man who moved to China.  And, George is highly intelligent.  So, what’s George’s problem? He’s the brooding, philosophical artist who ponders constantly upon what’s the point of life if we are all going to die. The oversized, dark trench coat he wears metaphorically hides him.
His anti-social ways start to change when a friendship begins with his classmate, Sally.  Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts were good picks for the characters of George and Sally.  Highmore was able to portray nerdy, misfit awkwardness, yet have a cute and endearing appeal. 

Roberts has an onscreen presence.  She did a good job portraying an 18-year-old female honing the skills of male manipulation learned by her mom, yet struggling to still experience youth.  Through scenes of underage drinking, partying, sleepovers, family fights and high school classes, we see a coming of age drama, with a privileged spin.  It is an independent film, so don’t expect the cinematography or storyline to be like a mainstream teen romantic comedy.
All in all, I wasn't excited by “The Art of Getting By." Perhaps because I’m not a preteen, teen, or can relate to the lifestyle of the main characters, what I took away most was the fact George’s teachers care about his success -- an important quality for teachers. A dose of tough love from Principal Martinson, and Ms. Herman (Alicia Silverstone) contributed positively to his situation.  In addition, I did see the groundwork for successful careers for Roberts and Highmore. And, as it is his first feature film, I did leave interested in seeing Wiesen's future projects.
The film opens June 17.


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