Sunday, August 11, 2013

Don't play the angles, George.

Of all the kids I have taught, there was this unforgettable young man I had early in my career, Jules. Jules was a pudgy, extremely introverted 6th grader at the time, and barring any setbacks, academic or otherwise, should be headed to college in the next few weeks. Jules never said a word, and always appeared to be diligently working. The thing is, all he ever did was draw. Shapes, lines, letters, cars, ninjas, whatever - Jules would put his head down and get completely lost in his art. Initially this frustrated and infuriated me, as Jules failed to complete anything. When I would question him (or even step in his direction), he would furiously erase whatever he had drawn. Even when I kind of accepted it, and eventually encouraged it, Jules would always apologize and say Sorry, Mr. Brown. I'll start my work. I'm sorry, while vigorously erasing/ultimately decimating his paper.

I didn't know it then, but I now know exactly what Jules needed to help him snap out of it. In fact it's the thing that gets most of us (in and) out of trouble.

Jules needed a girl.

If you weren't that kid who couldn't quite function in school, it's likely you knew him. The Art of Getting By, from writer and director Gavin Wiesen, tells the story of George, a high school senior. George, played by Freddie Highmore, is a relatively shy oddball, who despite being pleasant and well-mannered, can't get his shit together. He's not a bad kid, he just doesn't seem to care. About anything. And while part of you just wants to grab him and shake him endlessly, there's something frustratingly intriguing about him, too. I'm telling you, Jules was this kid.

As so often happens, the tiny world that George is possibly okay with gets knocked on its ass by a pretty young blonde named Sally. In a typical guy-move, George covers for this girl, despite likely never having even said a word to her in his life. Luckily, she rewards his misguided chivalry with some awkward conversation and the two become friends. They hang out, skip school, do typical cool-kid New York movie bullshit, and things seem to be going fine. Foolishly, and in a maneuver that too many guys have unsuccessfully attempted, George shuffles along claiming nothing more than friendship. This f--king guy isn't passionate about anything, except maaaaybe his artwork. Even that he seems ultimately indifferent toward.  But then friends, things change. That blonde friend of his? That blonde female friend of his? Well, she decides to start hanging out with another guy. They might even be having sex. Ol' passive, drifting-through-life Jules George? Well, I'll let you guess what he does.

Now honestly, while watching this flick, the themes of indifference and failure seemed to be entirely too pervasive. In fact, they had spread into my living room. I wasn't quite hating the film, but I wasn't really liking it either. It was simply occurring near me, doing little to engage. If that's the point, then let me say mission accomplished, writer/director, sir. But if that is the point, let me also say what the f--k, man? Really?

Ultimately, you should probably pass on this one. Sure, I was probably tired as shit, but I literally felt every single one the eighty-three minutes this flick doled out. Highmore is solid in the thankless role, even if there's at least a half dozen times when you'd like to kick in the dick for being such a pussy. Emma Roberts as Sally on the other hand, is at least mildly intriguing. Though I'm not the biggest fan of hers (yet?), the character at least reminded me of 70% of the girls that rendered me into a helpless shell of a man (um, in my youth anyway). The other 30% were way hotter. Regardless, the ultimate undoing comes from the all too predictable ending. Look up there at the poster again and think for one second how this movie might end. Ready? Yep. That's exactly what happens.

You know what you didn't see coming? The arbitrary and unfunny Yays and Boos. Wait. You did? Well you must have read this blog before. And you're back? Joke's on you!

This pic is from a Bizarro version of Warm Bodies.
  • Best reason for not doing homework ever? We're going to die one day. That shit's bulletproof.
  • Blair Underwood. I love this guy.
  • I liked the term teflon slacker to describe kids just drifting through school/life. Teachers usually go with lucky f--k to describe that kid. Well, not me.
  • Whoa. Sally's mom was hot. And slutty. In high school that would've been awesome. Now, that's my wife you're talking about.
  • Alicia Silverstone! I miss you, Cher. It's been on my mind, girl I've gotta say.
  • I liked when George, after his heart is ripped out, decides to listen to the same song over and over. He just wallows in his misery like a true asshole. Admirable.
  • George does step up though, eventually, even if just momentarily. Fisticuffs!
  • And finally, even it's a lifetime behind me (two, actually), I can appreciate any film that reminds me of all the dumb, life-altering shit I've done for a girl. Somebody start a slow clap...though not too loud. The kids are asleep.
  • Hope you like entitled rich kids trying to figure things out.
  • Stepdad. Dude, really? Maybe you should wander streets not near your kid's school. Just an idea.
  • Wait. Why can't we use The Postal Service's version of We Will Become Silhouettes? 
  • Cutting school in these types of movies is always so perfectly cute. Fine, I never cut school, ever, but if I did, there's no way in Hell I'm having noodles out of the carton and going to a foreign movie. Shit, might as well wear a beret and jump into a fountain with my clothes on! Bullshit.
  • Kids not asking questions. It's bad enough as a teacher, but holy shit when someone comes in and gives a presentation and no one raises their hand? It's awful, just awful.
  • Morning Wood. George, what the f--k? You always get up first. Always. Even if that means you don't sleep. Rookie.
  • Asking someone if they want to have sex. Actually that's not a Boo. At all. But taking it back, and saying never mind? That motherf--ker is.
  • And finally, the aforementioned ending. Not only is it insanely predictable, it's just the easiest way out. Somebody needed to get burned here, and really learn a tough lesson. Unfortunately, it wasn't George or Sally. It was me.
If I ever track down Jules, maybe I'll forward him this post and inadvertently torture him one last time. Though, if history holds, upon contacting him, he'd likely shut off his computer immediately and apologize profusely.

Speaking of, that's exactly what I need to do to as it's late and I should be asleep. Says who? A girl? Worse.

My wife.


  1. I may give this one a go, especially since, at 17, I was one of those kids who couldn't get it together. Granted the movie sounds like it doesn't have much direction and doesn't have anything new to say, but I might like it.

    I wonder whether Jules is still an artist?

    1. The kid in this movie reminds me of a few kids I have known as peers, but probably dozens from my teaching career. Jules, far and away the most, though.

      Please check it out. I'd love to hear someone else's thoughts on it.

      I hope that kid made it. He was a sweet dude.

  2. 'kay -- I'll bump it to the top of my Netflix queue. :)

  3. "I can appreciate any film that reminds me of all the dumb, life-altering shit I've done for a girl." <--- I'll watch it just because of this. Come to think of it... I still do it sometimes!! Although I was much more courageous than the character in the movie.... courageous... but I can say from experience that courageous isn't always better!

    1. Courageous is good if it works. Otherwise, it's just foolish. And desperate.

      I usually ended somewhere in the middle.