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Overall Rating
3.64

Awesome: 17.24%
Worth A Look37.93%
Average37.93%
Pretty Bad: 5.17%
Total Crap: 1.72%

7 reviews, 16 user ratings


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Art School Confidential
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by Lybarger

"Did this guy attend the same classes I did?"
4 stars

As a former art student, I have to compliment writer-cartoonist Daniel Clowes and director Terry Zygoff for accurately recounting all of the pretentiousness and folly that a person encounters in art classes or college in general. “Art School Confidential” is often hysterically funny because its depiction of life in these institutions isn’t much of an exaggeration.

In “Art School Confidential” and in real life, you’re guaranteed to encounter students who are more interested in spouting their ideologies instead of actually learning how to draw, paint or sculpt. As a result, half-hearted scribbles that a chimp could outdo are praised for their “originality,” even when the mental process behind the work is as shallow as it appears.

Yes, Picasso and Matisse painted child-like work, but that’s because they knew the rules before they broke them.

To be fair to my instructors, one actually gave me valuable advice that served me well when I started to design brochures professionally. Clowes was apparently not that lucky.

Wandering into this world is a skilled but naïve lad named Jerome Platz (nicely played by Max Minghella). Since he was a child, Jerome has reveled in drawing and has often used his sketches to get back at the bullies who make his life miserable.

As an adult, he hopes his time at Strathmore Art School will give him the friends he wants and the acclaim he craves.

He’ll have to keep searching. His main instructor, the smug but burned out (John Malkovich), tells Jerome to branch out even though he himself does nothing but paint triangles.

His classmates include a fellow named Bardo (Joel David Moore) who quits his studies before he ever gets near completing a term and people who can be typed as “an angry lesbian,” “a kiss-ass” and “a bored housewife.”

The prospects for a Strathmore campus grad are pretty grim. One bitter alumnus named Jim (Jim Broadbent) has only a trail of empty booze bottles and eerie paintings to show for his education.

Because Clowes and Zygoff have so much fun and generate so much merriment at the expense of faulty education, it’s unfortunate that “Art School Confidential” feels somewhat hollow when it’s through.

To write the script, Clowes reworked a four-page comic that recalled his own experiences at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The strip, which appears in his anthology Twentieth Century Eightball, recalled how his experiences were often memorable but useless in his later successful career as a cartoonist. It’s probably the funniest thing he’s done yet.

Clowes’ ear for dialogue is as finely developed as his illustration skills. When one student sees a gruesome painting, she disgustedly announces, “That’s so September 10th!” If you’ve ever heard anyone discuss a piece of art or literature without having a clue about its actual content, you’ll get a kick out of many of the lines you’ll hear in “Art School Confidential.”

Some of the biggest laughs come from how the students react to a jock-ish student (Matt Keeslar) whose mediocre paintings draw so much praise that even Jerome, who is far more talented, feels compelled to imitate.

In their previous collaboration “Ghost World,” Zygoff and Clowes were able to effortlessly balance scathing satire and a genuine compassion for their characters. In “Art School Confidential,” Jerome’s quest for legitimacy and acceptance isn’t quite as compelling. Jerome’s unrequited romance with a nude model (Sophia Miles) has some choice moments, but feels a bit undercooked. The storyline, while containing a great plot twist, isn’t as well thought out as the atmosphere of the school.

Anyone who has ever read Clowes’ graphic novels know he has a dense and vivid imagination. There’s so much to mock or examine in “Art School Confidential” that it feels as if Clowes and Zygoff should have abandoned the plot and gotten deeper into the characters and the absurd world of the school.

That said, Zygoff and Clowes do get the most out of their first-rate cast and prove that hollow laughs are far superior to no laughs at all.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13571&reviewer=382
originally posted: 05/22/06 01:44:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2006 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/27/13 David Hollingsworth Suprising, funny, and a little high-brow 4 stars
2/25/08 SamanthaP being anart student i thought that this movie was very true, it was also very funny! 4 stars
5/09/07 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
2/18/07 Bad Critic Thank you Zwigoff. Dark comedies of yours are a treat. 5 stars
12/07/06 Indrid Cold The comedy is a lot better than the serious parts, but worth a look. 4 stars
11/17/06 Phil M. Aficionado Weak brew indeed; more hackneyed stereotypes than smiles, and very scattered/spotty. 2 stars
9/21/06 John B Fell apart 1/2 way though 3 stars
6/14/06 Ole Man Bourbon Some funny jokes 4 stars
6/03/06 Stefan Russell an endless parade of cliches and bad acting... ha ha not funny either 2 stars
5/29/06 Troy M. Grzych 1st 1/2 is a comedy, the 2nd a dark drama, should have stayed a comedy. 3 stars
5/25/06 cailen dry, dark and tedious 1 stars
5/17/06 Mase Smart, original, unigue,dark comedy from Zwigoff. Smiled throught laughed out loud often!! 5 stars
5/17/06 Paul funny, right on, fine mix of crazy yet eloquently done writing and acting 5 stars
5/14/06 K. Pearlman Indy comic stuff doesn't always go over well with audiences 3 stars
4/13/06 marty Funny Classic and a little dark 5 stars
3/07/06 js Kind of a mess. And I loved GW. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  05-May-2006 (R)
  DVD: 10-Oct-2006

UK
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