Tag Archives: High School

The Art Of Getting By (2011)

There isn’t anything remotely likable about the protagonist of “The Art Of Getting By,” and he is only an interesting lead if you like entitled, angsty little pricks who think the world revolves around them. I know, I know, most kids his age can be entitled and angsty from time to time, but this kid brings the ‘glib teenaged hipster’ canon to a whole new low.

   Never in recent memory have I so wanted the ‘hero’ of the movie to be hit by a delivery truck, or at least go away, just go away, and get out of my sight. It doesn’t help that lead actor Freddie Highmore is about as boring as straight out toast, or that he (warning- spoiler for the cinematically challenged) gets together at the end with bland ‘quirky girl’ Emma Roberts (one of the least interesting young people in Hollywood.)

   George (Highmore) is a self-obsessed, pretentious little twit (or twat? How personal do I want to get here?) who constantly thinks about, y’know, death and stuff. He is so busy think about death, life, the universe, and everything that he can’t be bothered to do schoolwork, look out for his future, or do much of anything except doodle is his Geometry books. 

   Now, these doodles are good, but they’re not good enough to excuse the fact that he thinks he’s smarter, cooler, and altogether better than any other human being on the planet. His dialogue is just too cute to be believed. His sense of entitlement is tremendous. Gee, he’s an upper class rich white kid with no real problems, so he gets to wipe his feet with his hard-working peers.

    The scene where his step-dad loses it and kicks his ass was awesome, I just wished it had lasted longer. Even when George’s mom reveals that he’s not such an upper-class kid after all (in fact, they’re bankrupt,) it does nothing to stimulate empathy for George. Although Sally, his cute-and-oh-so-eccentric love interest is supposed to bring about a change in him, I saw no real development.

   Another problem is the dialogue. It doesn’t feel raw or natural. It doesn’t sound like something an almost-eighteen-year-old would say. Rather, it sounds rehearsed and stiff, especially coming out of the mouths of non-veteran actors Roberts and Highmore.

   So there you have it. I thought this movie was a pile of crap, more aptly named ‘The Secret Life Of Entitled Twits’ than the much milder “The Art of Getting By.” The only character I liked was the art teacher, who, incidentally, didn’t have nearly enough screen time. Just he dominating presence of Roberts and Highmore and the virtual absence of talented actress Ann Dowd (“Compliance”) was enough to make me hate this movie. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that did.

Elephant (2003)

“Elephant” is an interesting experiment, which could benefit from some editing and stronger acting. The ambiguity that surrounds the motivations of the killers is a frustrating, but perhaps relevant, critique of the shroud of confusion that surrounded the Columbine killings. 

   Parents, teachers, bullies, and the media were all held under scrutiny, and many school shootings later, we’re still holding candles in the dark as to what motivates these kids to kill their peers- and themselves- in a time that seems rich with possibility.

    The film is presented in a series of vignettes of students habitating a generic high school on the day of a Columbine-like massacre. Using nonprofessional actors and a handheld camera, the film recounts the a day in the kid’s lives- for many, their last- slowly following them around the school as they interact with their teachers and each other.

   The stand-out actors here are Alex Frost, as Alex, the apparent leader in the duo of shooters, and  Matt Malloy as Mr. Luce, the apathetic principal. Most of the acting (unsurprisingly, considering the inexperience of the cast) is rather stiff and listless, while attempting to be ‘real’ and ‘natural.’ The stillness of the performances are rather confusing considering the extreme nature of the subject matter.

   The characters are relatively interesting, not worth falling in love with but worth observing and studying. The most compelling character for me was Michelle (Kristen Hicks) a geeky student who deals with the bullying of her peers and the apathy of her teachers. Self-conscious of her legs, Michelle is told to tough it out and forced to wear shorts by an uncaring gym teacher.

   The kids’ individual dramas are made obsolete, a least for a little while, by the bigger drama of the shooting. This film is SLOW. 20% of the film is spent following the students, watching the back of their heads with intent interest. I would not recommend this movie to people who like fast-paced cinema. To people who are tolerant of slowness and stillness, I would not necessarily recommend it either. 

   “Elephant” is more an experiment than a full-fledged feature, and people out for entertainment should just forget it. But what do you expect with a Gus Van Sant indie movie about a school shooting? Sicko (cough.) Anyway, I feel pretty neutral about the feature as a whole. Some people might find it to be a film-student’s dream, others will be bored silly. Though I may dismiss it, I will not forget it either.