The Art of Getting By Review
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While packing for my recent move, I found myself distracted by an old high school journal, caught up in the drama of my teen years—the friendships, the insecurities, those agonizing crushes. But, no matter how dramatic my high school experiences may have been, I don’t think my teen years were ever quite as grim as the indie teen drama The Art of Getting By.

Former child actor Freddie Highmore (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) stars as George, a fatalistic teen artist whose perpetual depression and lack of motivation keeps him from doing any of his school work. With just months to go until graduation, he’s in danger of failing—but he really doesn’t care.

Then he meets Sally (Emma Roberts), a pretty, popular girl who finds him strangely fascinating. The party girl and the loner strike up an unlikely friendship—and it inspires George to take a slight interest in the world around him. But he soon begins to struggle with his feelings for Sally—as well as the growing challenges at home.

The Art of Getting By is a different kind of moody teen drama. Unlike the recent flood of movies about brooding teen vampires and werewolves and other angry teens, it feels real—but it also feels almost oppressively heavy.

I’m sure we can all agree that the teen years are tough—filled with doubts and fears and questions about who we’re supposed to be. And, as such, it’s not difficult to relate to George. He second-guesses his abilities; he wonders about the point of it all. Still, no matter how honest and realistic his fatalistic attitude may be, it’s often frustrating—and exhausting—to witness his bland indifference.

Fortunately, Highmore plays the role relatively well. Instead of the usual brooding teen hottie, he plays his character as a sensitive artist—a thoughtful kid who rarely forces his attitude on the people around him. As a teen actor, Highmore is just as sweet and scruffy and sincere as he was as a kid—and although it’s difficult to get a solid grasp on his often apathetic character, you can’t help but love him.

Roberts, meanwhile, doesn’t offer a whole lot to love. Though Sally is supposed to be cool and popular, she spends most of the time giggling awkwardly—more like a self-conscious 12-year-old than a young woman who’s apparently confident enough to proposition men or order her underage self a beer while hanging out at a local bar. The character, too, is frustrating—from her lack of any real personality to her floundering attitudes toward George.

Sure, at 18, most kids are still trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. But the gritty honesty of The Art of Getting By also makes it a difficult movie to watch—because the characters are anything but solid. It’s hard to get to know them because they feel like they’re constantly changing, right along with their meandering, underdeveloped story. It’s a real but heavy drama about the challenges of youth—and in the end, like George, you may be left wondering about the point of it all.

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