Though it’s by far and away the best part of the troubled News Corp.’s vast film division, walk into a Fox Searchlight release and you instantly know what you’re going to get. That their often predictable rom-coms near always follow the same plotline to a tee is both their biggest failing and most comforting strength, The Art Of Getting By therefore, perfectly fits the bill.
In equal measure, George (Highmore) is a talented but troubled teen, struggling to muster the urge to attend school, never mind submit his final year’s papers. He could go a long way in life, but he can’t find a reason to care about anything too much right now. Of course, until he meets a girl. After a chance encounter on their school rooftop, George befriends Sally (Watson), an absorbing teen with just the thirst for live he needs, but even with her help, George must make the leap himself to really step out of his shell and release his full potential.
Remarkably clichéd thanks to an almost overpowering ‘indie’ feel, The Art Of Getting By is an archetypal Fox Searchlight release. Though a little more invention wouldn’t have gone amiss, however, it’s entertaining too, if fairly frustrating throughout.
Now at an age where he’ll be wanting people to really stand up and take notice, particularly in the States, while Freddie Highmore’s performance in general is OK, his American accent is highly dubious and his character in general is equally unbelievable. In analysing life and his existence, it’s aimed for you to relate to George’s depression and doubts, but instead it feels like pure fiction.
Emma Roberts is better, ever sweet and charming, it’s no surprise George is swept off his feet, and together the pair share an awkward tension that suits the story well.
Wiesen’s directing is solid enough, but the core plot and script could have maybe done with a fresh spin, and while it doesn’t make the most of its New York City location, The Art Of Getting By is a solid theatrical debut for the double-threat filmmaker.
This is a film that has all the ingredients of a great film, but deals them out in imbalanced doses. Yet despite all of the flaws – and believe me, there are many – the third act is particularly strong, and pulls everything back together well, even if it’s so remarkably predictable. The Art Of Getting By is not the horror show some US critics might have you believe; there are a lot of problems, but it’s more than possible to look beyond them and find the still plentiful moments of quality and endearment beneath.