You've definitely seen a movie like The Art of Getting By before. It's the coming-of-age story of a young man trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and falling for his dream girl in the process. Though the Manhattan-set dramedy doesn't break new territory, it's still a heartwarming, clever film with a pair of appealing leads in Emma Roberts and Freddie Highmore.
Highmore plays George, a high school senior whose penchant for avoiding his assignments has earned him something of a reputation — and the risk of not graduating. The only things that can keep his attention are his art (well, his very concentrated efforts at doodling) and a girl named Sally (Roberts). Sally is the prototypical high school princess who beguiles George from the moment they start hanging out. Sally is intrigued by George and his talent for slacking, and they become friends, though it's obvious that George has more-than-friendly feelings for her. Even though the course of their relationship is as predictable as that of a Hollywood romantic comedy, watching George and Sally go from friends to something more is a pleasure. To find out what else I thought of The Art of Getting By, just read more.
It's great seeing Highmore graduating from child actor (he was the sweet-faced title character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and growing up. He captures the quintessential teenage experience of feeling like an outsider among your peers but still fearful of what they think. And he's hardly an apple-cheeked youngster that you're constantly rooting for; George is a good kid, but also kind of a jerk at some points. His rudeness to his mother (Rita Wilson) is disconcerting, but it's also spot-on for a moody kid of that age.
Another actor who proves he's come into his own with this film is Michael Angarano. As irresponsible artist Dustin, he becomes a mentor of sorts to George. I used to think of Angarano as Jack's young son on Will & Grace, but he leaves his boyishness behind here. He's rakish and morally ambiguous as Dustin, and you're not quite sure if you want George to follow in his footsteps or not. Dustin's success validates George's laziness and belief that he'll be able to make it in life without putting in any effort. Alas, a series of misfortunes finally rouse George from his mindset, and he matures in front of our eyes.
It's an ending that you see coming, and really, predictability is the movie's main flaw. Luckily, bright young things Highmore and Roberts are the saving grace. With precocious charisma, they keep the timeworn boy-meets-girl formula afloat.