The Art of Getting By
Just about everyone has some embarrassing artifact of their youthful pretensions lying around in a drawer somewhere — an unfinished screenplay, a sketchbook, scribbled poems — but most of us don't have the benefit of a multimillion-dollar budget and a marketing department exposing our failings to the world. Not true of writer-director Gavin Weisen, who smooth-talked a studio into financing his half-baked feature debut, and now has to live with the consequences. It's not really that awful, just derivative, callow and a bit sloppy; in essence a first draft taken way too far.
Child star Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) takes very tentative steps into the quasi-adult world as gloom-soaked teen George Zinavoy, a conglomerate of Holden Caulfield, Lloyd Dobbler and Max Fisher, just far more pathetic. He's sleepwalking his way through senior year at a tony Manhattan prep school, where he spends his time drawing in his textbooks rather than doing any real work. His teachers think he has talent but have mostly given up on him. (In a disconcerting time marker, Alicia Silverstone is now old enough to play a frumpy schoolmarm.) Zinavoy's only reason to show up for class anymore is that fetching, mildly damaged popular girl Sally (glassy-eyed beauty Emma Roberts) has taken a shine to him. He also befriends a slightly older abstract expressionist B.S. artist (Michael Angarno) who likes George's work, and likes his would-be girlfriend even better.
All the wistful trappings of minor chord adolescent heartbreak are on the soundtrack; from Belle and Sebastian to Leonard Cohen to Pavement's classic downbeat track "Here." The film is easy on the eyes, but the pacing and inert performances are total bummers.