There are so many jarring things about THE ART OF GETTING BY. Seeing Alicia Silverstone playing a frumpy teacher, for one, instead of the confused teen girl the lead is attracted to, and having the talented Blair Underwood reduced to a stereotype of a principal giving tough-love speeches. Every other back story here, for that matter, feels perfunctory and trite, of the type encountered before in angsty teenage movies.
Yet The Art of Getting By isn't completely without merit. First, it shows a New York that still dazzles despite (refreshingly) lacking all the familiar touchstones. And its main character is an enigma: George is dispassionate but not uptight. He's pessimistic but not neurotic, smart but not cripplingly so. His relationship with Sally is quirky in a surprising way: The beautiful, popular girl doesn't see the loner as just a friend, but likes him; he's the one who’s slow to respond. Their bond is interesting to watch and captures the ambiguous, complicated relationships that teens form these days. If only the movie could have skipped the cheap-shot ending.
So I happened to notice quite a great deal of people hold negative opinions on this movie. That's why I wanted to share my 2 cents.
Basically, the movie was what I expected it to be. Meaning: no blockbuster, no real Hollywood production, no mind-blowing action. A movie with a slice of life, just like 500 Days of Summer (come to think of it, it gets close to it in some ways, even if perhaps a little less mature). If you're looking for these exact characteristics, you may be better of looking for a different movie.
So what to expect from it? First of all: it does not aim towards shocking you. It delivers a message, apparent from the introduction we get at the start of the movie. Starting a movie with a quote is bold, yet it's also original and different. It sets the tone perfectly. So George is this high-school guy who has a different hobby, drawing. He gets so worked up in it that when he does, he loses sight of all his surroundings (anyone who's creative will relate, as do I). On top of this he holds a pessimistic view on life, basically saying 'we're all going to die anyway so what's the point'? Now I know a lot of people will consider this to be 'emo' or whatever, but it's not. Honestly. I plead guilty: I myself often think in this manner. In fact, I can relate so much to George that by the end of the movie, I sat with my mouth open, totally freaked out and overwhelmed, still am. He's the different one, the outcast, the guy nobody knows and everyone ignores. Yet people tend to forget that being quiet doesn't equal being an uninteresting person. On the contrary: this movie likes to show us the other side of the coin. So my conclusion would be that if you often feel misunderstood, or have lost motivation for life in general, this movie would definitely be the way to go, as it requires a certain mindset I believe...
What is so interesting about the movie, is that we see a great deal of changes in George's life from the moment he meets Sally. It triggers different actions and revelations in his life that are irreversible, as is often the case with love in real life too. It basically shows us that loved ones can change one's life for the better, even in a not always positive way. Love surpasses most joys of life, as it surpasses most of its burdens.
There were times when I was slightly annoyed. I was aware there were times where I would tell myself 'just do it/just say it!'. There are many awkward silences in the movie, which are automatically transferred to the watcher's feelings. I wanted to jump into the movie, help G. out, because life can be difficult, more so when you're an introvert. And even more so when love's involved. (personal rant ahead) The world of today is all about extroverts, people who are eloquent and sociable, certainly not something George can boast about.
The amount of growth George shows while struggling with his problems really makes the movie. You see him get out of his shell, while not losing his edge. It's not your typical American movie with happy ending, all's well that ends well. Again, just like life is a lot of the time.
I'd advise anyone to have a look. This movie has been a hidden gem for me and it perfectly fits my taste for movies. Be prepared for some thinking and awkwardness from time to time and when that's OK with you, you'll love it. If this is not what appeals to you, then it will probably not be your cup of tea. If you are an artist and have lost motivation and/or inspiration, you should feel compelled to absorb what this movie has to offer.
If you do enjoy this movie, don't forget to take a look at: '500 days of Summer' and 'It's kind of a funny story', which both are pretty close in terms of atmosphere to this one.