June 21, 2011

THE BIJOU @ REVIEW: “The Art Of Getting By”

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Written by: Mitch Salem


Not At Any Price:  Phony As A 3-Dollar Bill
THE ART OF GETTING BY (then called “Homework”) stood out at Sundance like an unsore thumb.  In the midst of high-quality, serious films that were at least trying to be about something (several of which will be opening later this summer), Art Of Getting By was a crassly synthetic piece of sensitive-youth dross that seemed only to be about getting its writer-director Gavin Wiesen a major studio release.  (Which it did, but the joke was on the filmmakers–despite the backing of Fox Searchlight, the picture died in theatres last weekend.)  

The picture isn’t worth much time or description:  it features George, a neo-Holden Caulfieldian hero (Freddie Highmore) who’s too cool to do his homework–although he’s read every word of “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and can describe its imagery at will–and a budding artist.  He falls for Sally (Emma Roberts, in a lesser version of her role from last year’s It’s Kind Of A Funny Story), who cultivates his friendship but doesn’t embrace his deeper feelings.  George is surrounded by, you know, phonies, but finally, with the support of a remarkably sympathetic group of school officials (including Blair Underwood and Alicia Silverstone),  he has to dig down and prove what a man, and what an artist, he can be.  The only remotely interesting character is Dustin (Michael Angarano), a painter and mentor to George who’s immediately identifiable as a creep, but turns out to be one with some nuances.  The film’s level of banal unoriginality can be summed up thusly (with a mild spoiler alert):  the movie literally ends with a character going to the airport to fly away, maybe forever–only to turn around and appear back at school, so as to give George all he so richly deserves.  The Art of Getting By is all too accurate a title.

(THE ART OF GETTING BY – Fox Searchlight – 84 minutes – PG 13 – Director/Script:  Gavin Wiesen – Cast:  Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Rita Wilson, Blair Underwood, Sam Robards, Alicia Silverstone, Elisabeth Reaser – Wide Release)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."