Movie Review "The Art of Getting By"

Whenever a generation grows up to fast it is due to a war going on. WW II, Korea, Vietnam all consumed everyone and youth was a short time and adulthood a long journey. You knew you had to choose to be part of the effort or hide from it. Pick a side and stand tall for your beliefs. All before you even graduated high school. We may not have a World War going on but there is war going on throughout our world again.

Unlike when I was growing up and going to school, we had time to relax and watch the world and not contemplate what I had to do next in my life. That is not necessarily so with today’s youth. In the larger populations and in every country our youth are growing up faster and faster with the advances in technology and social interactions.

First time feature film director and writer, Gavin Wiesen, takes a look at how the youth of now are dealing with life in school and beyond in his coming of age exposé in ‘The Art of Getting By.’

George may seem to be your average high school senior. However he has just found out that he cannot skirt by anymore and will not graduate if he doesn’t finish every assignment, EVERY ASSIGNMENT. Sally has befriended George even though she herself runs in different circles. For George that is great as he is pretty much alone. Through their friendship, his life experiences at home and actions everyone in his life makes, George must choose what path he will follow as adulthood hits him fast.

Wiesen has brought a stellar group of actors to breathe life into his art by hitting nail on the head and driving it straight in on one strike in depicting the trials of youth today. The writing is subtle on the surface and complex in nature. As an adult you think, “What the hell! I would never have acted as such.” Then I step back and have to remember I grew up in a different time, with drastically different perspective on life. He has looked at what is going on in the world and written that age is just a number and we all can have the same dilemma of life’s wants, needs, desires and expectations.

The cast gathered for this venture included some of the most respected as well as those that have a prosperous career ahead of them. Blair Underwood (LA Law, The Event) steps in as Principal Martinson, who helps George set his path. Rita Wilson (It’s Complicated, Old Dogs) and Sam Robards (Gossip Girl, A.I.) portray Vivian and Jack Sargent, Georges parents who themselves have secret issues to discover that affect his life. Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight series, The Good Wife) is the flirty and vivacious young mom to Sally, Charlotte. The alumni/mentor for George’s creativity is Dustin played by Michael Angarano (The Forbidden Kingdom, Sky High).

Rounding out the ensemble are the three teachers that push George into life head first reminding him there is more to life. Ann Harada (Happiness, Hudson River Blues) is the hardnosed math teacher Mrs. Dougherty. Portraying the English teacher, Ms. Herman, that always stands up for George and tries to inspire him to hard work is Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, Beauty Shop). Whom I had to take a double take on as she was not in her usual dolled up attire playing a brainless character, surprised me by being very good in her role. The one who stood out, was the teacher who spoke the least. Though when he did it was very curt (foul language ensued), directly to the point and allowed George to be what and whom he wanted, would be art teacher Harris McElroy, played by Jarath Conroy (True Grit, Day of the Dead). Jarath portrayed Harris in a manner that takes the BS out of life and makes you focus. Something I think many of us would love to have happen, even now.

Keying in as the main focus of this story are two exceptional young actors in Freddie Highmore (The Golden Compass, August Rush) and Emma Roberts (Valentine’s Day, Hotel for Dogs) as our yin and yang, George and Sally. Highmore and Roberts are in the zone with their performance portraying George and Sally. Not too much of a stretch as they are playing characters that are going through a time in their life they have both just recently lived. It adds to the realism and conflict the characters are going though with school, home life, the pressures of growing up and the wanting of belonging.

It is an extraordinary story with impeccable acting surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a metropolis. Filled with people of many generations and social acceptances making you stand back and take a different look at those around you. As an adult or parent it will make you look at kids and have you reflect how you are perceived to them. Youth may look at this film and go, “finally, someone who gets us!’ Either way you will not only enjoy but marvel at how we as a society have change and adapted, whether for the good or bad still depends on our own perspective. I personally enjoyed this feature. It well exceeded my expectations and happily so.

This is normally where I put my thoughts on relating the film to real life. Art imitating life, no pun intended. It is tough to do when the film says it all. We as a society have advanced so much so fast. I remember growing up and not having a cell phone to communicate with everyone. The most important thing to worry about was what to do for the weekend with friends. Yes there was underage drinking, sex, drugs, the gambit. However today it is more and more becoming the norm as much as it has changed. In the film I had an issue with all the underage drinking and partying that was being portrayed and had to see that these were “privileged” youth who had parents that did not have a ‘hands on’ relationship or upbringing with their kids. Matter of fact they just threw money at them and said, “here, grow up” as a way of childrearing. It saddened me especially as I have to look at parenting very seriously.

I am in a relationship with a wonderful woman that has two great kids, a beautiful 8 year old girl and handsome boy who is 11. Two completely different personas but very much at an age that they are beginning to want to grow up faster than I or her would like. The boy has a cell phone, the girl wants one. She is very much about herself and wanting all she can, he is about what he can do for everyone. Two distinct different ideas of life much like George and Sally. But I worry, am I, as a step father figure, doing what I can to allow them to grow up slowly and not have to be adults to fast? Do I have too firm of a hand and not a warm enough heart? It bothers me to no end because I don’t want them to just do the basics like I did in my growing. I don’t want them to have to deal with life the way I am now. I want them to live full adventurous and filled lives and never just do what is necessary and not just “get by”.  Live life to the fullest each and every day.

Follow my entertainment adventures throughout Southern California on Twitter @SCThrillsMarc.

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