Freddie Highmore, appealing child star of Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, still has the look of a tender fledgling, but he’s moved into stroppy adolescence with his role in The Art of Getting By, a coming-of-age romantic comedy set in a well-heeled Manhattan familiar from Gossip Girl.
Sporting a credible American accent, he plays moody teenager George, who describes himself as ‘the Teflon slacker’, having perfected the art of getting by at his Upper East Side prep school without doing any work. Not because he’s lazy. His shirking is prompted instead by teenage existential despair. After all, what’s the point of homework when we’re all going to die one day?
Of course, doodling in your schoolbooks and cutting classes will only take you so far, even if you are as quick-witted as George. Fortunately, he stirs himself eventually, though by then his passivity seems to have ruined his chances of graduation – and of getting together with more worldly fellow student Sally (Emma Roberts, Julia’s niece).
Like its hero, writer-director Gavin Wiesen’s film is content to coast along – getting by on the charm of its young leads and a hip soundtrack of mopey indie pop (The Shins, Pavement, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah etc). How much you enjoy The Art of Getting By, however, will probably rest on whether you’d like to give its loafer hero a hug or a slap.
On general release from 2nd September.