Art School Confidential Terry Zwigoff

There’s a moment early in Terry Zwigoff’s art school parody when a student outlines for our protagonist Jerome (Max Minghella) who the walking clichés are: the suck-up, the older mom, the burn-out and the goth, each one representing an image not of what an artist looks like but what an art school student resembles.

To a certain extent, it’s a scene that sums up the entirety of Art School Confidential, the second collaboration between director Zwigoff (Crumb, Bad Santa) and cartoonist Daniel Clowes, whose screenplay is based on his Eightball series and whose Ghost World already provided inspiration for Zwigoff. To his credit, these art school observations are accurate and wryly observed, even by the student who points them out, himself a cliché.

Jerome has two roommates: closeted gay fashion student Matthew (Nick Swardson) and action-obsessed aspiring filmmaker Vince (My Name Is Earl’s Ethan Suplee). His education should come from the dryly cynical but mostly crushed art aspirants like Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich) or failed, completely crushed former students like Jimmy (Jim Broadbent). But instead it comes from (unfortunately not at the hands of) life model Audrey (Sophia Myles), the older, out of reach crush for poor Max.

While there are some chuckles to be had in the adventures of rising art star Jonah (Matt Keeslar), who becomes Max’s rival in both paint and romance, there’s a lack of freshness that lingers around this film. On the one hand, the disaffected art school ennui was done better — and with more depth and resonance of character — when Claire attended a couple of years ago on Six Feet Under. And for the skewering of the scene’s pretensions and the dismantling of what it is to be a star and express yourself in the world of art, one need look no further than John Waters’ Pecker.

Art School Confidential has moments of wry clarity, enough to make it stand out in class, but not enough to make a mark in the real world. (Mongrel Media)