George’s other notable personal relationship is with Dustin (Michael Angarano, Gentlemen Broncos), an artist and recent graduate of George’s school who gives him advice about how to pursue Sally and who, predictably, becomes Sally’s shoulder to cry on when George doesn’t respond to her strong come-ons. Sally’s pursuit of George and her explicit propositioning of him are interesting scenes in that they show the female character aggressively pursuing a reluctant male character (the situation is usually reversed), and him hinting that he’s a virgin before spurning her suggestion that they sleep together. He doesn’t refuse her advances out of moral conviction—he’s simply confused, uncertain and scared—but the fact that the two characters don’t jump into bed together gives the film an innocence among the sadness and the cynicism of most of its characters.

Fatherlessness is another buried theme in The Art of Getting By. Both George and Sally have grown up without their biological fathers. Each has accepted that, but as they discuss their backgrounds, there’s a strained undertone of abandonment to their talk. However, like much else in the film—including the characters of Zoe and Will, friends of George’s who barely have any screen time after the story introduces them—it’s underdeveloped.

With so many undercooked themes and characters, The Art of Getting By has no right to work, but the film pays off with an ending that plays much more like a mainstream romantic comedy than the dour independent film Art wants to be. Indie-film audiences will feel betrayed by the feel-good ending, while mainstream audiences will be put off by George’s sense of emptiness and entitlement, raising again the question of to whom, exactly, this film is targeted.

Maybe students looking for a more complex theater experience than the standard multiplex fare? The movie does have enough of an upbeat ending that those viewers, like George, will be able to shake off the character’s sense of despair and angst and leave them wondering how, against the odds, the film manages to get by.


  • Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; the “f” word”; “s-it”; a woman says she has “a lot of slutty friends” George might like; “circle jerk”; “douchebag”; “bats-it”; “sadistic little hussy.
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Several scenes of smoking and drinking; verbal speculation about a “drug buy from a skanky hooker”; Dustin says he was hung over when he agreed to speak to a group of students.
  • Sex/Nudity: Sally’s mom comes on to George; Sally pulls out a trundle bed for George to sleep on; he watches her undress from behind, and we see a bra strap but no nudity; they don’t sleep together, but Sally notices that George has an erection under his sheets; George is told to throw Sally against the wall and kiss her; Sally asks George if he’s ever had sex, he suggests the answer is “no,” and then she asks if he’ll have sex with her; kissing; Sally tells George he’ll have to sleep with a lot of girls to get her out of his system.
  • Violence/Crime: Jack assaults George, who rights him off with an elbow to the chest.
  • Religion/Morals: George doesn’t see the point of life and speaks of “fate”; an artist describes a painting as “heaven to me.”

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