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Originally published Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Movie review

'The Art of Getting By': Movie about a lost soul never finds its way

A review of "The Art of Getting By," starring Freddie Highmore as a prep-school teenager who floats through life.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

'The Art of Getting By,' with Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Elizabeth Reaser, Sam Robards, Rita Wilson, Blair Underwood. Written and directed by Gavin Wiesen. 84 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including sexual content, language, teen drinking and partying. Several theaters.

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A vague little drama about a pair of not particularly interesting teens, Gavin Wiesen's "The Art of Getting By" just barely gets by. It's the story of George (Freddie Highmore), a senior at a posh Manhattan private school who's floating through his life, ignoring his distracted mother (Rita Wilson) and not doing his homework. He meets Sally (Emma Roberts), a popular fellow student who turns out, surprisingly, to have a few things in common with him: specifically, rebellious tendencies and an even more distracted mother (Elizabeth Reaser). They become friends and fall in love — a development clear to everyone except George and Sally.

Filmed with an oddly bobbing handheld camera — the movie often seems, disconcertingly, like it's afloat — "The Art of Getting By" seems to be aiming for the quirky charm of "Rushmore" or any of a number of lost-teenage-boy movies. But though Highmore ("Finding Neverland") and Roberts ("Nancy Drew") are appealing performers, Wiesen never gives us much reason to care about them.

Instead, we're distracted by George and Sally's penchant for casually drinking in bars (are baby-faced high-school kids allowed to do that in New York?), by the fact that many of their classmates look like they're in the advanced stages of grad school, and by an unbilled yet rather sweet performance by Alicia Silverstone as an English teacher. You watch this movie thinking of the better movies it reminds you of ("Clueless," anyone?), and the better movies Highmore and Roberts will surely make someday.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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