If you had a time machine, when would you go, what would you do? 1492, when Columbus sailed that ocean blue? The Bay of Naples, AD 79, just in time to watch Vesuvius blow its top? How about Dealey Plaza, November 1963? Maybe nudge Lee Harvey’s (or whoever’s) arm just as he’s taking that fateful shot? Or maybe Trafalgar Square on VE Day 1945, the last time Britain faced the future with optimism?
If you had a time machine, when would you
go, what would you do? 1492, when
Columbus sailed that ocean blue?
The Bay of Naples, AD 79, just in time to watch Vesuvius blow its
top? How about Dealey Plaza,
November 1963? Maybe nudge Lee
Harvey’s (or whoever’s) arm just as he’s taking that fateful shot? Or maybe Trafalgar Square on VE Day
1945, the last time Britain faced the future with optimism?
Leaving aside the
potential metaphysical consequences of changing time (Chaos Theory, the
Butterfly Effect, etc) and totally ignoring the Novikov self-consistency principle, the million pound question, of course,
is would you kill Hitler? Would
you take the risk of changing the course of 20th century history on
the off-chance that assassinating one of the world’s most evil dictators would
have prevented World War 2? What
if killing Hitler made things worse?
Personally, I think you’d be doing the world a greater service by going
back to around 1947 and pushing JD
Salinger under a bus just before he wrote The Catcher In The Rye.
That one slim,
hugely over-rated novel about a privileged, whiny, mopey, sexually ambiguous
adolescent helped give birth to the notion of the teenager and has spawned a
canon of self-indulgent scribbles about privileged, whiny, mopey adolescents,
their crushing ennui, their frustration, their sense of alienation and their
existential angst. Worse, it’s
given birth to an entire genre of film typified by John Hughes’ The Breakfast
Club where pretty, privileged, whiny, mopey adolescents bitch about the
petit bourgeois futility of their lives.
And there are few things more annoying and charmless than listening to a
pretty teenager whine about how tough and empty their life is. Boo-hoo. Buy a helmet and get in the trenches with the rest of us you
feature by one-time whiny, privileged adolescent Gavin Wiesen, The Art Of
Getting By is the latest film to chart the travails of being a privileged,
whiny adolescent. Smart,
under-achiever George (Freddie Highmore)
is failing high school (mainly because he’s a lazy S.O.B who hasn’t done any
work) but it’s ok, we, the audience, know he’s actually, like, really smart and
super-sensitive coz, like, he reads Camus and draws cartoons and smokes
wistfully by the lake while listening to Leonard Cohen and stuff. He falls in love with the cool, popular
Sally (Emma Roberts) who’s also a
bit mopey about life, comes out of his shell a little, gets his heart broken
and eventually gets his act together while his parent’s marriage implodes and
his kindly headmaster (Blair Underwood),
kindly English teacher (Alicia
Silverstone) and gruff but kindly art teacher (Jarlath Conroy) bend over backwards to accommodate his teenage
As heroes go,
George is a pretty passive one.
His big act of rebellion isn’t to burn down the school, take a shed-load
of drugs, commit suicide, discover masturbation or turn up one day with an
assault rifle and mow down everyone in the cafeteria (you know, the things a
real American teenager would do).
No, his big act of rebellion is to not do his homework making him the
illegitimate lovechild of Holden Caulfield and Bartleby the Scrivener.
problem with The Art Of Getting By,
other than you’ve seen this story a thousand times and you’d really rather it
ended with the hero going on a nihilistic kill-crazy rampage, is nothing much
happens and nothing much is at stake.
George’s big rival for Sally’s affections is a hipster artist, Dustin (Michael Angarano), who’s possibly less
proactive than George but infinitely more sympathetic than him, principally
because he’s not wallowing and whining about how awful life is. You’re never in much doubt that George
will grow up and get the girl but you just don’t care.
pretentious and bland as its protagonist,
The Art Of Getting By is an irritating exercise in upper middle class
self-indulgence. You just know
that writer/director Gavin Wiesen probably didn’t get laid until he was in
college and has exercise books at home full of his own crappy cartoons.