Steadily, I am becoming sick of seeing movies about smart ass, know-it-all 18 year olds and their rich schoolmates who think they’re important socialites. “The Art of Getting By” tells the story of George Zinavoy, an artistically talented young man who wears over-sized clothing, cares about nothing, and has no feelings. When the film begins, you dislike him, by the end, you loathe him.
As senior year winds down, graduation is around the corner and George is still slacking when it comes to his school work and teaching the audience that life is pointless (via voice over narration). He gets called to the principal’s office on a regular basis about his behavior and work (or lack there0f). When a bit of luck sees George becoming friendly with the popular and pretty Sally, he finally has feelings about something, someone, anything! But in his typical manner, he knows how to avoid acting on those feelings. His mother and step father have their own problems to deal with, but their aloof and detached manner is that of people who don’t view parenthood as a central part of their personalities.
Getting by to me always meant flying under the radar. Doing enough to keep moving forward but staying out of the spotlight. George seems to thrive in the art of failing at life, rather than getting by. His thought process is one of accepted certainty toward death and reclusivness. Lonely and overly copacetic with his brand of careless lifestyle, if his persona was attached to any other person, they would probably be suicidal. For all his problems, everyone in his life just lets him fail. In fact the only thing he is ever “getting by” is a harsh reality check from someone who has actually done something with their life, loved, lost and persevered; that and a swift kick to the head. Why any of his teachers waste the time over and over to give this twerp a chance of redeeming himself is astonishing and unbelievable. It seems the faculty at his school waste a majority of their time trying to help him instead of giving attention to other students. His parents are no better, just letting him walk all over them.
There is simply nothing presented in “The Art of Getting By” to make anyone sympathize with any character. Next to George you have his love interest Sally, who is supposed to be the out-there spark of life that knocks the guys off their feet. Instead, Emma Roberts plays a plain, typical and uninteresting character that is no different than her role in “Twelve,” except she drinks and goes out more in this film. Frankly, if you want to make me feel something for a poorly written character in an unrealistic view of life where 18 year olds can sit down at a bar with some beers to talk about life, don’t fill the cast with marginally talented relatives and spouses of far more famous people; there are a few in there.
Far fetched, unoriginal and grating, “The Art of Getting By” simply set the bar way too low while thinking it was light years ahead of everything else out there. It pummels you with characters who you have no reason to like and have no reason to fight for. It’s main character learns something, but he never admits he has anything to learn, so in the end, he is still no better than he was at the beginning; he only just has more open to him.