Blues-loving filmmaker Terry Zwigoff and underground-comic auteur Daniel Clowes’s last collaboration, 2001’s teenage alienation dramedy Ghost World, was a match made in outsider heaven. Their sly, darkly ironic observations celebrated geek caricature, yet painted a sweet-and-sour portrait of social exclusion that touched on deeply resonant issues of identity.
Setting their second joint project in the hothouse environs of art school makes for ripe, hilarious jabs at college-aged Artforum fatuousness. But Clowes and Zwigoff’s earlier insights into the physiologically deficient seem forgotten, replaced with a blandly handsome leading man (Minghella) shyly chasing a hottie nude model (Myles) against the contrived backdrop of a serial killer on the loose. The fringe freaks are still there—just relegated to the fringes, along with any humanist moments that could indicate genuine empathy.
The writing-directing pair do, however, explore the trade-offs between one’s true artistic nature and the temptations of gallery commercialism. The twist-of-fate climax strives for a greater truth about opportunistic extremes, but the material is too thin to make any lasting impact. Lending their support with winning turns are John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent and Anjelica Huston. The result, though, is more like a promising sketch rather than a truly absorbing portrait. (Opens Fri; click here for venues.)—Stephen Garrett