Published Jun 16, 2011Hyper-literate, introverted young men are a classic trope, from Holden to Ferris to Igby. Gavin Wiesen's debut feature, The Art of Getting By, serves up another of these tragic types: a private school slacker named George Zinavoy (Freddie Highmore), who just can't seem to work up the enthusiasm for anything, least of all his schoolwork. That is, until he meets and befriends the slightly more mature and significantly more experienced Sally Howe (Emma Roberts).
The Art of Getting By is a film that follows the classic coming-of-age formula. A compulsive doodler, George is obviously a talented artist, but can't focus clearly enough on the real world to utilize his skill. As he becomes closer with Sally, George begins to emerge from his shell, but when he gets caught in a love triangle with Sally and a bohemian painter (Michael Angarano) everything falls apart and he retreats back into reading Camus and listening to Leonard Cohen on repeat.
At its heart, The Art of Getting By is a romance about the reconstitutive and destructive power of love, and the difficulty of recognizing oneself through another's eyes. George is the kind of kid that think he's got everything figured out, but his heartbreaking initiation into adulthood is a catalyst for the world beginning to change around him and as the end of term approaches, so does the possibility that he will be left behind.
The Art of Getting By doesn't tread much new ground, but the film is somewhat refreshing in the way it naturalizes the dialogue and refuses to let its characters become mere avatars of snarky wit. Its wide-eyed, youthful worldview does eventually wear thin though, and George's fairly serious problems seem to be cured with relative ease, with the film wrapping up as neatly as an episode of Felicity.
The Art of Getting By proves once again that in order to come of age, you need to do more that just go through the motions. (Fox Searchlight)