The Art of Getting By

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Time Out says

Tue Jun 14 2011

Let's give it up for the iconoclastic teen outcast! Ever since Holden Caulfield cursed the world's phonies and philistines, the sensitive, smitten, smarter-than-you young antihero has become a consistent role model for sensitive, smitten, smarter-than-you young readers and filmgoers. Though the jaded young protagonist in writer-director Gavin Wiesen's feature debut may not be the overambitious Rushmore type, George Zinavoy (Highmore) still fits the mold of misunderstood misfit. Dig that oversize trench coat, the Camus paperback he hides behind in the cafeteria and the Leonard Cohen tune he loops endlessly when heartbroken. Only Sally (Roberts)---a fellow student at his Upper West Side prep school, both bonding over parental problems---truly gets this chronic doodler's artistic genius. But can these two ridiculously entitled Gotham kids connect when academic probation and a boho artist (Angarano) stand in the way?

Ugh! For a movie devoted to an alleged geek-rebel underdog, this coming-of-age flick couldn't be more conformist, from its familiar faux quirk to the interchangeable emo-pop songs peppering each sugary montage. (Throwing a Pavement song in the mix only makes it worse, bub.) Former kid stars Highmore and Roberts bob gamely in Wiesen's sea of indie-poseur sap, only to sink once things take a turn for the knee-jerk inspirational. The film was renamed after its original title, Homework, proved too ambiguous for studio execs, and the new moniker seems prophetic: This is exactly what skirting by on toothless Salingeresque table scraps looks like.

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