Review: The Art of Getting By

It is almost a religious belief of mine that anything showing at Sundance is at least worth watching. I first saw this trailer a few weeks ago on a website previewing summer movies, and when I saw it, I knew immediately it was the kind of movie I had to see–even if its limited release meant driving to a city to see it. I almost posted it here as a “Watch For,” but then I realized its release was so close I might as well just wait to review it. Take a look at said trailer:

I have also loved Fox Searchlight ever since they were responsible for the distribution of Garden State. This movie is right up their alley–small, indy film with known but not sought after actors. The shaky, hand-held camera. The way things are said without words. It’s all very indy filmmaking.

Unfortunately, The Art of Getting By received relatively bad reviews for that very reason–it’s been done before. It’s a cliche story with a cliche resolution. In some regards, those critics are right. But this film is almost there. A few tweaks and it would have been sensational. In my book, that earns at least a positive review.

Emma Roberts is wonderful as Sally. It would be easy to hate her for the hoops she pulls George through, but instead, Roberts just makes her character pleasantly complex. She is as confused by herself as George is. She doesn’t want to play with him, but she doesn’t want to settle down either because in her mind that just means an eventual ending. So instead, she plays in the middle–shamelessly showing interest in George and then backing off when he starts to return it. The character is both well-written and well-acted.

Freddie Highmore as George is a little harder to judge. You may know Highmore from Finding Neverland and August Rush. He has been a promising actor since he was just a little boy. Now nineteen, he will have to figure out what kind of actor he wants to be. This movie is a great place to start because he is still learning. It is obvious he is still finding his comfort zone as an actor. But this movie isn’t a misstep that would cost him the dreaded “child actor” label.

George is a little flat and cliched (not unlike the movie he wanders through). His angst is nothing new to us, but the feelings he develops for Sally and the heartache she causes him comes across well. We can feel how overwhelmed he becomes as his world starts to crash around him. The second half of the movie makes me believe Highmore might be a truly gifted actor. Time will tell.

It’s the ending of this movie that leaves me feeling a little empty. You see it all coming. Any twist–even a little one–would have been welcome. But Roberts and Highmore have their whole careers in front of them to bring that twist. I don’t think they’ll disappoint.

Verdict: B

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