The Art of Getting By (review)

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Freddie Highmore in The Art of Getting By

Let me get this straight: George (Freddie Highmore: Astro Boy) is a spoiled, overprivileged private-school brat who hasn’t done a lick of work during his entire high-school career, all three-and-three-quarter years of it. He’s skated by that whole time precisely because he is a spoiled, overprivileged private-school brat, naturally, because who else would get three months away from graduation without having done a lick of work? And now we’re supposed to cheer him on when he gets coddled and overindulged yet again when he is handed the opportunity to finally pull his act together, do a bit of math here and essay-writing there, and earn that diploma? No repeating a whole school year or three for the likes of George! But what’s this? The project that really flummoxes George is the one his art teacher gives him, to produce one piece, just a single work, that is “honest and fearless”… and George has absolutely nothing to say. George is a miserable, fatalistic moper who believes he is philosophical: he is actually merely tediously adolescent, and will clearly continue to be so into adulthood, now that he’s learned that he can coast on his supposed charms… as with quirky Sally (Emma Roberts: Scream 4), who suddenly “inspires” him with her manic pixie dream girl ways: they cut class, wander the boho streets of New York City, eat noodles, and visit arthouse cinemas. They’re literally too cool for school. *gag* None of this first feature from writer-director Gavin Wiesen rings true, and most of it is preposterous and self-conscious. It’s kinda neat to see Alicia Silverstone (Beauty Shop) here, gone from Clueless student to deeply disappointed teacher who does not want to coddle George. Alas that she does not get her way… and that’s the real unspoken lesson of this flick: fortunate-son underachievers like George will always do well, because no one has the nerve to dole out the spankings they deserve. And we’re supposed to see them as snappy, clever underdogs because of it.

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