Movie Review: Art School Confidential

I saw Art School Confidential last Saturday.  I was somewhat excited about it, as I loved the previous Zwigoff/Clowes collaboration, Ghost World, enough that I saw it twice in theaters.  Unfortuantely, Art School isn't nearly as fun or cohesive as Ghost World was. 

Like Ghost World, Art School starts off heavily satarical, then transitions into drama and tragedy.  The satire's done with a pretty broad brush, but it's funny nonetheless.  Ghost World made fun of high school and suburban life, while Art School attacks art school in general and artistic personalities in particular.  The first third of the movie is quite funny.

But where Ghost World started funny then gradually introduced painful elements until the entire world fell apart, Art School goes from making fun of emo-types to being melodramatic in itself.  We're introduced to a score of comic characters in the first third who abruptly disappear right when the movie decides it's time to be dramatic.  Whereas Ghost World moved seamlessly from comedy to drama, Art School changes abruptly, as though they shot two different movies and spliced them together at the first reel change. 

The movie's also disappointing for being put together somewhat artlessly.  The character development is poorly handled, such that we have little idea what motivates the main characters, even the ones that we spend 90% of the movie watching.  Most of the dialog comes in the form of truly ham-handed exposition.  There's one scene that had the most excruciatingly obvious exposition that I cracked up.  Apparently the filmmakers realized they needed to explain the big art exhibition that is the movie's climax, so we have a professor telling his students about it, followed by the following questions:  "Isn't it true that our entire grades for the semester are based on this one exhibition?"  "Isn't it true that the person with the highest grade gets a special prize?"  "Isn't the student who wins the prize each year given an exhibition of their work at Broadway Bob's art gallery?"  "Hasn't every student who's won gone on to incredible fame and fortune?"  "I've heard that none of your students has ever won the prize, and that you're afraid you might lose your job if one of us doesn't win this year.  Is that true?"  I do not exaggerate; these are verbatim quotes from the movie. 

It's a shame, because there actually is a good movie hiding in here.  Clowes and Zwigoff are very adept at showing a certain kind of pain, of showing smart, talented people watch as their lives slowly fall apart and come to realize that their dreams of glory will go unfulfilled.  Most everybody dreams of being at the top, but only a few people can get there and they aren't necessarily the most talented or deserving.  Zwigoff and Clowes are probably the best in the business at portraying intelligent losers, people who miss their chance at fortune and give up on life.

There's a lot of interest in this movie, but it's poorly edited, has terrible characterization and dreadful dialog.  It's worth seeing getting when it comes out on Netflix, I think, but not worth spending money to see in theaters.  Not recommended.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on May 24, 2006 1:42 AM.

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