The Art of Getting By

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Art of Getting By Movie Poster Image
Inconsistent coming-of-age film includes teen drinking.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 84 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie takes a while to make its point, but ultimately the message is that hard work does pay off.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Not too many characters are admirable, but George is a good guy who's just lost and searching for purpose; how he finds that purpose is interesting. And his mother proves to be an honest, caring parent.


An adult tussles with a teen boy during a screaming fight.


An 18-year-old high school girl sleeps with an older man; she's shown clothed in bed, and they kiss. A teen boy appears to have an erection under the covers.


Relatively infrequent use of "f--k" (said once), "s--t," "hell," "bulls--t," "crap," "douchebag," "suck," and "loser."


Some label-flashing, especially of technology products like Apple iPods and laptops; also Starbucks. Wealthy students are shown living in fancy apartments and wearing top-shelf clothing while a classmate's family struggles to pay the bills.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some teen smoking and drinking (both beer and hard liquor), both at parties and at clubs. A character vomits and passes out on a sidewalk after drinking too much at a party. Adults also drink socially. Some mention of Ritalin and Lexapro. 

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").

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byacl January 20, 2012

Not worth the time.

I thought that it was inappropriate that these highschoolers were drinking alcholic beverages in a restaurant and a bar. The fact that it was not addressed in... Continue reading
Adult Written bywonder dove September 25, 2011


Hmm, this film wasn't too bad - definitely watchable, but not very exciting. Seemed emotionless, I didn't care too much for the characters, the story... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byIcanwindra June 19, 2020
Kid, 12 years old October 15, 2016

Never Give Up

the movie is really good it has a great message that it's never too late and george is a great role model

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?

Movie details

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