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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Art of Getting By

November 29th, 2011

The Art of Getting By - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Helmed by first time writer / director Gavin Wiesen, The Art of Getting By had a great cast and very strong pre-release buzz. There was talk that the film would open wide, which would have been a rare feat for Fox Searchlight. However, while many people were bullish over the film's box office chances, the reviews were well below expectations and the film's semi-wide release was a disaster. Was this a fair result? Or does it deserve to find an audience on the home market?

The Movie

Freddie Highmore stars as George Zinavoy, a high school student who has recently become acutely aware of his own mortality and has fallen into a funk as a result. He's stopped doing his homework and is in real danger of not graduating as a result. After getting a lecture from his Principal, he goes to the school roof and sees Sally Howe, a fellow senior. She's up on the roof, smoking, which could get her suspended. So when the two of them are caught by a teacher, George takes the blame. This begins a friendship, which is really his only friendship. They have a bit in common, including home life that is less than idea. (It's not abusive, but Indie Dysfunctional. Her mother enjoys alcohol a little too much and has what one could generously describe as an active social life. Meanwhile, he learns his step-dad lost his job and he only pretends to go to work.)

With new friends, he starts to get a better outlook on life and things start to turn around. He even starts working more on his art, after meeting a fellow artist, Dustin Heath, while at a job fair. When Sally wants to turn their friendship into something more, he doesn't know how to react. When he stops talking to her, she starts dating Dustin, and that's when he collapses back to his early lows and it looks like his life is falling apart again.

I'm going to stop the plot summary there, although I don't think there's too much threat of me spoiling the movie. I feel like I've seen this movie dozens of times. The film I was most reminded of was Submarine, which I previously reviewed. Both films had lead characters who were roughly the same age. Both are social outcasts. Both have family problems. Both are dealing with first loves. Both had poor reactions to relationship troubles. Unfortunately, where the two films differ the most is quality. The Art of Getting By is much, much weaker.

The main problem is the number of clichés. We've seen far too many Indie films about quirky young characters dealing with family troubles while falling in love for the first time. This film needs some hook to make it stand out. It doesn't have one. The dialogue is too pretentious and despite some good performances by the two leads, the characters are simply not engaging. They don't have enough chemistry for their relationship to make sense. Not enough feels real as opposed to a movie that is trying to hard to be Indie Cool.

The Extras

The extras begin with an audio commentary track by first time writer / director Gavin Wiesen. It's a solo track, so don't expect a lot of energy, but there is at least quite a bit of information given. New York Slice of Life is a two-and-a-half-minute long featurette on the locations. On Young Love is a featurette on the relationship between the two leads, but it is only a tiny bit longer than the first featurette. Freddie Highmore sits down for a four-minute interview. And finally, there is a twelve-minute making of featurette. I don't have the DVD, so I don't know what extras are exclusive, but none of them push the technology, so there's no reason to assume any of them are exclusives. As for the technical presentations, it's a low budget Indie film, so one can't expect a visual masterpiece. The level of detail is good, colors are strong, blacks are deep, etc. The audio has clear dialogue with some ambient sounds, but is mostly uncomplicated. It does cost about 40% more than the DVD at $25 to $17, which is a bit much.

The Verdict

The two young leads in The Art of Getting By are very talented, but the script gives them very little to work with. There's certainly almost nothing here that we haven't seen many, many, many times in the past. The DVD and the Blu-ray have more extras than most limited releases, but the featurettes are generally too short to be worth it. If you like the two stars, then maybe it's worth a rental, but that's as enthusiastic as I can get.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Art of Getting By, Submarine