Art School Confidential

Art School Confidential


Reviewed by: George Williamson

"You're either with me, or you're a fucking Nazi."

Jerome is entering art school for the normal reason - to meet beatnik girls, impress them with his incredible painting talents, and become the greatest artist of the century. Unfortunately he's soon shown that it's not what you know; it's who you blow.

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Art School Confidential is Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' semi-autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. Our hero - or at least protagonist - is Jerome, a suburban freshman enrolling at the Strathmore Institute in Manhattan, searching for love, sex and paintings (well, mostly sex actually). The hierarchy of characters in the world of art education are quickly exposed: the alcoholic has-beens, the apathetic tutors, the overserious conceptualists, the suck-asses, the comical nude models, and of course the incredibly attractive art school chicks. But a dark cloud hovers over the campus - the Strathmore Strangler is loose, and looking for blood!

As the brief synopsis suggests, Art School Confidential isn't a particularly serious affair, and is similar to Todd Solonz's Storytelling in two ways: firstly that it examines pretension in the arts, and, secondly, that it's a gross disappointment. The film has some exceptionally funny moments - the introduction of artschool classmate stereotypes and the disasterous endeavours of Jerome to lose his virginity in particular - but about halfway through most of the humour evaporates and the focus shifts to Jerome's hapless attempts at seducing the model from his life drawing class and the killer roaming the institute. What starts as an enjoyable cynical comedy revolving around the hypocrisy of the art world becomes progressively more bitter and ridiculous, belabouring its message in an entirely unsubtle manner.

Ghostworld fans will be sorely disappointed; however, the film is not without merit. The first half is very amusing - if juvenile - and John Malkovitch, Jim Broadbent and Steve Buscemi clearly relish the chance to ham it up and stick two fingers up at the straight faced phoneys of the art scene. While Max Minghella and Sophia Myles - as Jerome and his muse respectively - lack real intensity, the supporting cast - especially Joel Moore and Ethan Suplee - give great performances, probably as they have the more comic roles.

Ultimately Art School Confidential exists in a middle ground somewhere between Animal House, American Pie and Ghostworld; it's too crass to be a plausible satire, and not funny enough to be a dumb comedy.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Art School Confidential packshot
An artist learns to adapt his vision to the world around him.
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Read more Art School Confidential reviews:

Chris ***1/2
Keith Hennessey Brown **1/2

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Writer: Daniel Clowes

Starring: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Matt Keeslar, Ethan Suplee, Joel Moore, Nick Swardson, Anjelica Huston, Adam Scott, Jack Ong

Year: 2006

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US

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