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Movie Review: 'The Art of Getting By'

Hollywood teen rebellion takes a mopey, irritating turn in Gavin Wiesen's debut feature. The film — and the boy — need to get their acts together.

June 17, 2011|By Robert Abele, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Freddie Highmore in "The Art of Getting By."
Freddie Highmore in "The Art of Getting By." (Raymond Haddad / Fox Searchlight…)

Some delicate-flower extreme has been reached with "The Art of Getting By," a charm-free wisp of a movie about that most annoying of recent archetypes: the mopey, privileged adolescent.

Hollywood teen rebellion now comes in the form of cherub-faced, overcoat-wearing drip George (Freddie Highmore). A daydreaming, doodling Manhattan senior, George refuses to do homework because he's wise enough — he reads Camus, drinks in Leonard Cohen! — to realize that life is meaningless.

But, boy, do his feelings get hurt when he falls for flirty cool chick Sally (Emma Roberts) and has to deal with real-world problems at home with his concerned mom (Rita Wilson).


For the record: An article about "The Art of Getting By" in Friday's Calendar credited Mark Schafer as the photographer of the accompanying photo. In fact, Raymond Haddad is the photographer.

It seems half of debut feature director Gavin Wiesen's script consists of adults — Blair Underwood's caring principal, Alicia Silverstone's worried teacher, Michael Angarano's mentory Brooklyn artist — telling George to get his act together.

Unformed protagonists don't come more wallowingly irritating and contradictory than George. He can cogently analyze Thomas Hardy in class, but can't he say anything witty or interesting elsewhere?

Wiesen is convinced, however, that the young man's imminent maturation — rendered by Highmore as gradations of pretty-boy pout — is rivetingly romantic stuff, making the filmmaker's sensibilities only that much more oblivious than his lead character's.

calendar@latimes.com

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