“People live alone and die alone.” This is the quote that haunted George Zinavoy (Freddie Highmore) when he was younger as it made him realize his mortality and changed his whole outlook on life. George is a lonely teenager living in New York City and this film is about his struggle with finding motivation to graduate high school; moreover questioning the point of life altogether. He literally fails to do any work whatsoever and is consequently faced with an ultimatum towards the end of the film: complete every single assignment he missed for every class, or fail to graduate.
Inevitably, this film is also about a girl, Sally (Emma Roberts), who George befriends and their relationship complicates as the plot develops. They become aware of their feelings for each other yet find it hard to communicate them. Sally’s mother, played by Elizabeth Reaser, provides a comical aspect to the film through her flirtatious nature, even towards George much to the embarrassment of Sally and George himself, and through the unconventional methods she adopts towards her daughter.
Throughout the film you also see problems within George’s family; mostly consisting of friction between him and his stepfather (Sam Robards). You also see the strain put on his mother (Rita Wilson) as she struggles to find ways to deal with George’s lack of motivation. Moreover as George begins to go through problems with his feelings for Sally and his schoolwork, he also begins to realize that his stepfather’s business is in turmoil and his parents are having serious financial difficulties.
George is an extremely likeable protagonist and this gives the whole storyline more sincerity. As an audience you really get drawn into his emotions and his view of the world. Freddie Highmore gave an authentic performance and he managed to deliver George’s innocence and his somewhat lost persona without it feeling forced. Furthermore, as a British actor I feel his accent was accurate and convincing. Then again I am British myself so I may not be the best judge of New York accents!
Personally I think the downfall of this film was the leading lady. Sally came across as very arrogant and egotistical and I couldn’t tell whether this was intentional and if it was then I don’t understand why. This aspect of the character gave her an unpleasant aura which completely contrasts to the aura of George and this made me as a viewer feel slightly uncomfortable with their evolving relationship. However I could be completely alone in this feeling, so it would be interesting to know what others thought of Sally.
George and Sally’s potential relationship is jeopardized when a third character, Dustin (Michael Anganaro), comes into the equation. The sting is even worse for George as Dustin originally arrives in the story as a role model to him as he helps guide George with his artistic talent. However, Sally becomes involved with Dustin and this made me as a viewer like her character even less.
The Art of Getting By was written and directed by Gavin Wiesen — his first major film. Although the script was sometimes lacking in substance, I felt overall he did a good job of molding a story essentially about a teenager’s last year of high school, into quite a moving film.
This film isn’t necessarily going to blow you away however I would recommend this film for an easy-going, enjoyable watch and I think many people could relate to aspects of George’s problems.