George, a lonely and fatalistic teen who's made it all the way to his senior year without ever having done a real day of work, is befriended by Sally, a popular but complicated girl who recognizes in him a kindred spirit.
As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
Believing the quote that you are born alone, die alone and everything else is an illusion, George doesn't see the point of life, school, or homework. Then he meets Sally and he now has a reason to go to school and make friends, even if he's not ready to admit to himself or to her that he likes her. The school's principal and art teacher introduce him to an alumni, and successful artist, Dustin, who can help guide George along life's path, but other distractions start surfacing, and George might not even be able to graduate from high school. Written by
Exactly average in every way, another teen "romance".
This was one of those understated-on-purpose films which I normally adore: except I didn't. There has to be some type of excellence in these little indies which invite a second look -- great acting, original concepts, exceptional dialog, beautiful art direction, etc. -- but in this case, none of the above applies. The Art of Getting By lives up to its name by just scraping by on its formulaic mediocrity in every category.
Freddy Highmore and Emma Roberts play high school students in the city, from different from different social classes even though they both go to an expensive private school. George (Highmore) also happens to be a loner/misfit who has a bad case of that teen angst we all can recognize: everything's pointless, why bother doing homework, we're all going to die anyway, yadda yadda. He's got all his justifications figured out, and then one day he develops a hard crush on Sally (Roberts), and suddenly sees that there may be a point to things after all. But of course there are personal problems and home life to drive a wedge between their budding maybe/sorta romance, including George's inability to express his feelings in any way except through his art. So the stereotype of the misunderstood loner/misfit is carried through quite predictably, exactly as we have all seen it in two dozen other films about teenagers.
Highmore and Roberts are good-looking and competent actors, judging by what I've seen of their work elsewhere. Here, however, they fizzle. There is simply no chemistry between their characters. Roberts may be able to get by on her stunning good looks, but lip-twisting and -twitching do not a convincing actress make; she merely sleepwalks through her lines. We the audience are never shown what it is about her (other than striking eyes) which attracts George. George does have a few moments of good dialog which could have been gold in the hands of a motivated actor, but the constant wooden expressions on his face undermine them; he is blank even when tears are running down his cheeks. How the heck are we supposed to care about his personal crisis? I will say in its favor that TAOGB does have some standout minor characters; the adults in George's life which, for the most part, are well-acted. I especially liked his art teacher's over-the-top intensity. George's mom is also wonderfully cast for the role of a tired woman just trying to hold her family together. And what's up with Alicia Silverstone as a frumpy schoolmarm?!?..but it works, oddly enough.
So in short, TAOGB wasn't a disaster, but I just can't see anybody citing it for outstanding, well, *anything* in the years to come.
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