The Art of Getting By

a film by Gavin Wiesen

One can reasonably assume that Holden Caulfield, protagonist of the novel that writer/director Gavin Weisen has obviously read and enjoyed but did not "get", would call The Art of Getting By a great big phony. In fact it is the kind of movie that proves that not all arthouse fare is necessarily all that artistic and that some of it can be downright mundane and ordinary and just as cheaply formulaic as any mainstream motion picture. I suppose by this point one can easily ascertain my general thoughts on this quite insipid Catcher in the Rye wannabe, but let's go a little further into the void and see what pops up.

The Art of Getting By is about George Zinavoy, a typically privileged Upper West Side teen trying to cope with the pressures of modern-day teendom and the stress associated with having to "make it" in high school - even in the private school atmosphere of this film. Many have complained about what they call the unrealistic portrayal of such a kid who comes from wealth having problems in the world. I find nothing wrong with this portrayal, after all everyone is susceptible to depression and anxiety no matter what social class they may hail from, but I do have a problem with the way it is dealt with. Instead of anything resembling an honest approach to the situation (even the dialogue feels forced) what we get from first-time feature director Weisen is cliche after cliche after stereotype after stereotype.

The film stars Freddie Highmore as the awkwardly charming George (you know, that kid from Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Emma Roberts as Sally, George's fellow rebel without a clue and wouldbe girlfriend (you know, Eric's daughter, Julia's niece). Both young actors are pretty-as-punch and both are at least capable in the ability, but neither has the acting chops to pull off any semblance of character depth or growth. But then again, they are given such a shallow pool of characterization and storytelling to work with I suppose it doesn't really matter if they can pull of any semblance of depth or growth - they are not given any to attempt. In the end, it is this shallow pool that we as an audience are sadly left with. A great big phony indeed. Well said Holden. [06/22/11]