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"Art School Confidential"

Directed by Terry Zwigoff.
Written by Daniel Clowes.  Based on a comic series by Daniel Clowes.
Starring Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, Joel Moore and John Malkovich.

Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  5/16/06


After "Bad Santa", I'll see anything that director Terry Zwigoff gets his hands on.  With "Art School Confidential", many of the quirky things that made "Bad Santa" so funny work in his newest film, but in batches few and far between compared to his hilarious Billy Bob Thornton-fronted holiday comedy.

Max Minghella plays Jerome, a New York City suburbanite that gains acceptance at Strathmore University, an art school downtown.  Jerome, a sketch artist that is trying to expand his horizons, gets into the college experience to learn some art...and along the way meets a wild array of kids bent on becoming the next great artist.  He is really keen on Audrey (Sophia Myles), a nude art model that attends Strathmore; he also spends time with his new best friend Bardo (Joel Moore), his roommate Vince (Ethan Suplee), and a weird alcoholic homebody (Jim Broadbent).  Jerome also gets to learn under the watchful eye of Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich), who may or may not have the worst eye for talent in the school's history.

"Art School Confidential" starts off well, introducing us to all of the characters with great laughs and snide commentary on the art world, or maybe the lack of talent in this particular art society.  Minghella is strangely watchable; some combination of his comic timing, his line reading, his character's constant discomfort or maybe my endless wonder of "what color is his skin?" kept me hooked, as does Myles, who has eyes that seem to go for days.  The script by Daniel Clowes (who collaborated with Zwigoff on the comic-turned-movie "Ghost World") is really funny early on, and even though it feels familiar the film does enough to dig out of downtrodden early-college-experience territory.

But about halfway through the movie, we get caught up in two pieces of drama that end up dominating the film's tone--a murder investigation into a campus stalker, and Jerome's sad pursuit of Audrey, even as she seems more romantically interested in an untalented outsider (Matt Keeslar).  I didn't get caught up in the former since we essentially find out who the "Strathmore Strangler" is with about 30 minutes to go--duh!--and much like Bardo comments late in the movie, it's no fun following the class douchebag around as he pines over a woman that we don't even get and who seems to have zero personality or defining features.  We get less of the Malkovich character, less of Bardo, less of the wackos that drive the art school element..."Art School Confidential" almost dies on the operating table in the stretch run, forcing me to do the unfathomable check-the-time move as the film limped to the finish line.

And, I'll admit--my expectations were high because I loved "Bad Santa" so much.  I normally come in with a clean slate for a film but it was hard here, because I really have come to love "Bad Santa" more and more each time I watch it, and I was hoping to recapture some of that magic in "Art School Confidential" but it never happened.  At least it started off well.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09