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The Art of Getting By (2011)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/29/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/7/2011
Other than the fact that you visit this website, read the reviews, and don't bombard me with hate mail, I try not to ask too much of my readers. But, I do have a favor to ask; Would someone please let me know if the life of the average teenager living in Manhattan is anything like what we see in entertainment. Things likeGossip Girl and Twelve lead us to believe that there are no parents in this part of the world and that adolescents freely go into bars and drink. Is that true? The Art of Getting By is yet another movie which makes me wonder just what is going on there.
Freddie Highmore stars in The Art of Getting By as George, a teenager with a variety of issues. A senior at a private school in Manhattan, George is bright and his teachers expect a lot from him. Yet, George is racked by anxiety over death and he never does his schoolwork, as he doesn't see the point in it. He has no friends and he spends most of his time drawing. One day, he helps classmate Sally (Emma Roberts) avoid getting into trouble and they begin to talk. Sally is fascinated by this brooding boy and they begin to spend time together. Career Day occurs at the school and George meets Dustin (Michael Angarano), an alum who now works as an artist, a prospect which intrigues the boy. Meanwhile, George begins to suspect that there are troubles at home with his mother and step-father (Rita Wilson & Sam Robards). As graduation looms, George must decide if he wants to follow a certain path or simply disappear from the world
The Art of Getting By sees Writer/Director Gavin Wiesen making his feature film debut. However, Wiesen clearly can't decide what kind of movie he wants to make. This is apparently meant to be a drama, as we watch George deal with the struggles in his life, both at school and at home. With the inclusion of Sally, the movie wants to lean towards being a romantic drama, as she is the first girl who has paid attention to George.
However, the sluggish pace of the movie makes it feel more like a "slice of life" film. We get a lot of shots of George walking around the city and many dialogue scenes which don't really advance the plot. This isn't helped by the lack of tension in the drama. Every plot twist in the film (especially those concerning Dustin and Jack) are telegraphed far too early. The relationship between George and Sally is meant to be undefined in a certain sense, for this actually hurts the film, as we don't know what either of them are thinking. Of course, we get the obligatory scenes where George and Sally go to a fancy party thrown by a teenager where everyone is drinking. Sally has issues with her mom and George is closer to his principal (Blair Underwood) than he is with his own parents, but these plot devices feel very contrived and they're never explored. The biggest issue is with George. Perhaps it's bad writing or perhaps it's Highmore's performance, but George doesn't come across anywhere near as angsty as I think that movie wanted him to be. He talks about dying and the futility of it all, but he never seems maudlin or unhappy. The fact that he's anti-social and won't do his schoolwork makes him come across as more of a jerk than anything else.
This is probably going to come across as sounding cruel, but when I finished The Art of Getting By, I immediately thought of it as a "nothing movie". It didn't have much of a story, the characters were wafer thin and it never moved me. For a debut film, Wiesen has assembled a fine cast, but it's squandered on a movie which never finds its voice.
The Art of Getting By made me sad that Charlie Bucket found himself in this situation on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors, though muted at times, look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is nice, as we can see textures on objects and the depth really shines on the street scenes. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a low-key drama, we don't get a lot of dynamic audio effects here. The scenes on the city streets provide some mild surround sound and some notable stereo effects. One party scene brings the subwoofer into the fold, but it's absent for most of the film.
The Art of Getting By Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Gavin Wiesen. "New York Slice of Life" (3 minutes) has the cast and filmmakers discussing how advantageous and inspiring it was to shoot the film in the city. "On Young Love" (3 minutes) simply has the Wiesen, Highmore, and Roberts giving an overview of the story and the characters. "Fox Movie Channel Presents - In Character with Freddie Highmore" (4 minutes) offers an interview with the actor. "HBO First Look - The Making of The Art of Getting By" (13 minutes) offers a lot of film clips and interviews which are very similar (if not the same) as the ones seen in the other featurettes. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long