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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 William Goss

"Too Many Different Strokes"
3 stars

The promotional campaign for 'Art School Confidential' employs the phrase, “Just throw it on the wall and see what sticks.” The film adheres fine at first, working best as a collection of caricatures, but the humor eventually dries up and a half-hearted attempt at grander satire causes the second half to peel away, no matter how hard you try to smooth it back down.

Jerome (a meek Max Minghella) wants to be the next great artist. As such, he decides to attend the Strathmore Institute, where other creative souls flock in the pursuit of greatness (or success, whichever comes first). His roommates include fashion major Matthew (Nick Swardson, carrying on his tradition of incredibly effeminate roles) and Vince (Ethan Suplee), an aspiring filmmaker whose lately project concerns the incidents on campus concerning a serial strangler. Meanwhile, in the class of Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich, fitting right in), Jerome finds himself guided by major-shifting Bardo (Joel David Moore), competing with creepy new guy Jonah (Matt Keeslar), and head over heels for model Audrey (Sophia Myles). Oh, and Anjelica Huston appears in two scenes as another professor and Steve Buscemi appears in two more as an art dealer, but frankly, the film seems to feature them more out of obligation than necessity.

Initially, the film finds its footing as a farce, lampooning several personalities that even those farthest from a paintbrush can recognize and chuckle at. Several scenes, such as Jerome’s attempts at dating manic-depressive beatnik chicks and the like, work rather well, especially considering that it could just as easily be an SNL sketch with just about the same amount of depth. One of the few successful Strathmore students returns to lecture that students about the futility of their education. Great artists are born, not learned; he is one, you are not, and as such, he can afford to be as much of an asshole as he pleases. However, such quirky touches soon run out of steam, and the unfortunate decision is made to put the clumsy Strathmore Strangler subplot front and center, which is the moment the film loses its sense of humor as well as its focus.

Director Terry Zwigoff and writer Daniel Clowes, reuniting five years after Ghost World, initially introduce Jimmy (Jim Broadbent) as an inebriated and bitter alum whose lifestyle of misery and loneliness seems to be an artist’s cruelest fate and strongest foundation, but once the killer strikes again, Jimmy becomes the awkward voice of nihilism, driving Jerome once he discovers that idealism in the art world is irrational. At this point, Art School Confidential becomes a movie of misguided meaning, simultaneously supporting and shooting down its protagonist’s aspirations, robbing him of ambition when he is supposed to be as great as he think he is. The films goes from skewering every pretense of the art world to embracing them, and instead of a sincere portrait of an artist coming to terms with the equally abstract nature of reality as he pursues “that narcotic moment of creative bliss,” it becomes dry when it should become truly dark and limps along as a derivative glimpse into an off-kilter world, good for a few laughs and nothing much else.

In the end, Zwigoff knows what he wants to say, but he misses the big picture, failing to fuse his shifting tones with a more complete theme. The mood becomes bitter, distracted, and rather murky when it would be dark, could be cynical, and should be rewarding, if only for the pessimists and nihilists. However, demanding such a crappy happy ending is asking for a happy ending nonetheless and could be mistaken for compromising one’s artistic integrity for the sake of commercial satisfaction, which the film itself seems to suggest. Not to sound like a snob or anything.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13571&reviewer=409
originally posted: 05/14/06 14:23:18
[printer] printer-friendly format  
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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