Art of Getting By, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: -4

Emma Roberts, Freddie Highmore. Drama/romance. Written & directed by Gavin Wiesen.

FILM SYNOPSIS: George, a lonely and fatalistic teen who's made it all the way to his senior year without ever having done a real day of work, is befriended by Sally, a beautiful and complicated girl who recognizes in him a kindred spirit.

PREVIEW REVIEW: George is just so hard to like. So’s Sally. Despite their every advantage, every opportunity, they are a reflection of cinematic teen angst, which only makes them seem selfish, self-centered and oblivious to the realities of life. Perhaps that’s the filmmaker’s objective.

Where films like Rebel Without a Cause examined youthful alienation, this film unconsciously indicts this generation for living the credo, “What have you done for me lately?” Maybe that’s the film’s intent. But the movie also contains a meaning-of-life theme. This is where the filmmaker stumbles. When it comes to finding the meaning of life, writer/director Gavin Wiesen doesn’t seem to have a clue as to where to look. At some point, we all struggle with the question, “Why are we here?” But Mr. Wiesen fails to address the subject from a spiritual perspective. The film is another example of Hollywood focusing on the mental and the physical, but completely avoiding the spiritual.

Certainly it’s difficult to present a clearcut portrait of the need for spiritual matters through film, but this picture doesn’t even attempt to suggest the need for a spiritual connection. Ultimately, if we seek the final solution within education, our own vocation, or that one special girl, something within will still be unfed.

The moment I really turned against the lead character came during a scene where George could have reached out to his hurting stepfather, a man who couldn’t bring himself to tell his family that he lost his job. Having discovered his stepdad’s secret, George merely puts him down rather than showing the slightest concern. He stands far off, seeing the man’s pain, yet unwilling to reach out. The teen later admits to his mom that he was always obnoxious to her husband, but by then the damage is done and the stepdad is written out of their lives and the story.

George doesn’t do for others. He expects them to do for him. Is this a reflection of so many in this “Ask not what I can do for others, ask what they can do for me,” Obama-era? (That’s just a little payback for all “Reagan-era and Bush-era” I’ve had to endure from my more liberal colleagues in criticism. It’s just a joke. Though I don’t like the President or his policies and feel he’s the worst leader of the free world since Jimmy Carter, it’s, uh, not meant to be political.)

Most of the adult characters are one-dimensional, shallow props used to serve as victims of George’s rebellious wit. The moms and dads are drunks or devoid of any sensitivity. While I understand there are such problems in households across America, here it’s not honestly portrayed. They are caricatures, not fully developed. The teachers seem to be the exception. They are concerned with trying to set George on the right tract. Oh yes, George has a change of heart by film’s end, but by then we’re tired of his rebel-without-a-clue attitude. At least I was.

My point: often movie characters lack full dimension. In this film, well, they’re just plain full of it.

DVD Alternatives: Smile (2005) Mika Boorem, Luoyong Wang, Beau Bridges, Sean Astin. The story concerns Katie (Mika Boorem from Sleepover) a self-centered teen from an affluent Malibu family, cute and at the top of the social order at her school. Struggling with adolescent issues, including whether or not to have sex with her boyfriend, Katie is beginning to sense that there is more to life than what’s offered by her preferential world. When a favorite teacher presents an opportunity to get involved with a charitable group, she hastily agrees to travel to China as a volunteer, not realizing that this trip will change her life. PG-13 (A mother discusses sexual matters with her teen daughter and supports her decision to get birth control pills. There is a make-out scene, but the girl realizes that she is not ready for sex and puts an end to it.)

The Climb concerns two mountaineers (one black, one white) forced to team up as they ascend Mt. Chicanagua, a dangerous Chilean alp that tempts the most astute of adventurers. With different backgrounds and views on life, their struggle with each other becomes as daunting as the mountain itself. What impressed me most was the script’s delicate inclusion of the Gospel message. After the success of the comical road picture Road To Redemption, which gained the highest decision rate of any televised Billy Graham movie to date, World Wide is following with an outdoor adventure that reveals an innate need for Christ’s salvation. The day of the “church” movie is past, at least at Dr. Graham’s film organization. No Bible thumping here, just a sincere portrayal of God’s mercy, Christ’s sacrifice, and how to welcome both into our lives. PG (thematic elements).

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: Around ten obscenities, mostly the s-word.
Profanity: Three misuses of Jesus name, mostly by teen characters who seem to have no further purpose for Christ than the diminishing of His name.
Violence: A brief fistfight.
Sexual Intercourse: Implied sex, but mainly these characters all talk a lot, they don’t seem to do much else.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Though still in high school, these kids are always in bars freely drinking beer like they’re members of Hemingway’s Lost Generation.
Other: One good point to this film: teachers are seen as trying to truly educate and better the lives of their students.
Running Time: 84 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens with angst

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