Thursday, June 16, 2011

the Art of Getting By

What a debut for first time writer/director Gavin Wiesen with "the Art of Getting By". The film is absolutely beautiful in every way from the script that likely includes life experiences from Gavin Wiesen, to the genuine acting from the two leads, and tightly wrapped up by a smart soundtrack. Freddie Highmore continues to offer up strong performances reminiscent of "August Rush" (2007) and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005). Emma Roberts has also recently joined the list of young actresses in their 20's to follow after her role in "It's Kind of a Funny Story" (2010).

The film is a typical coming-of-age story following George (Freddie Highmore) through his final year of high school who struggles with living after having a realization that every day we are coming closer to our death. So rather than deal with the daily requirements of being a student he finds better things to do with his time by doodling in his math book and skipping school. Gavin Wiesen is quick to point out that George doesn't have ADD, which is too quickly diagnosed in children today for parents that don't take the time to understand what their child is experiencing. George describes himself as the "teflon slacker", as all the medications and counselors haven't been able to figure him out.

Even though it is apparent that George has attended this school in previous years, the attention of Sally (Emma Roberts) and other students comes across as sudden. I know that not everyone had a high school group like I did where I knew a lot of the same kids from elementary school through to our high school graduation, but George and Sally should have crossed paths before.

As good as the performances from Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts are, the scenes involving Harris the Art Teacher (Jarlath Conroy) are by far some of the best. The other teachers come across as cliche, but Harris is the role model that George is lacking. Harris is trying to motivate George to say something meaningful and is able to recognize his bullshit even in the doodles that his classmates and mentor Dustin (Michael Angarano) want to praise.

Watching this film reminded me of a first kiss, including the awkwardness leading up to that magical moment. I would like to see it receive some consideration in the award season for the script and performances from Freddie Highmore and Jarlath Conroy. I cannot give the film the full rating, but 4 Quacks is more than respectable I feel. In a film season of sequels and overused 3D attempts a film like this is refreshing.

(screening date 6/16/11, release date 6/17/11, location AMC Mazza Gallerie)

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