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The Art of Getting By
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this quirky coming-of-age film may appeal to teens familiar with the restless boredom and paralyzing worries that the high school years can impose. Although things ultimately head toward an up note, some of the material is dark and moody. Expect scenes of underage drinking -- both in bars, which the characters likely were able to infiltrate with fake IDs (though this isn't made explicit), and at parties -- sometimes to the point of drunkenness, as well as references to sex (including an 18-year-old sleeping with an older man) and swearing (including infrequent use of "s--t" and "f--k").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
George (Freddie Highmore), a senior at a private New York high school, has lost all motivation to perform. He hasn't turned in any of his homework and, though he's intelligent, he feels no need to share what he knows in class. What would be the point when life just feels so pointless? Then he meets Sally (Emma Roberts), a socially agile but complex classmate who's intrigued by George and invites him into a new world where everything seems both confusing and possible at the same time. Meanwhile, worries of the non-existential kind loom on the home front.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages. What is it saying about teen relationships -- with each other and with adults?
Why is George so unmotivated? Do today's teens feel this more than kids did in years past? Does this movie portray teens' struggles realistically?
Do the worries and challenges facing George and his friends seem relatable? Why is graduation such a turning point for teens?
- In theaters: June 17, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2011
- Cast: Emma Roberts, Freddie Highmore, Michael Angarano
- Director: Gavin Wiesen
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including sexual content, language, teen drinking and partying
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.