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Art School Confidential
Laugh at some art school snobs.
Art School Confidential
A Scene from "Art School Confidential".
OPENING WEEKEND: $11,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $38,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

April 10th, 2006: Recent high school graduate Jerome Platz (Max Minghella) is determined to become the next influential artistic mastermind like his idol Pablo Picasso. Free from the oppressive world of bullies and peer pressure, he is ready for a fresh start as an art student at the Strathmore Institute. Oddly enough, he’s lucky to somehow catch the attention of his dream girl, Audrey (Sophia Myles), the artist’s model. Unfortunately for him, her affection soon shifts to Jerome’s preppy classmate, Jonah (Matt Keeslar). Although Jerome considers Jonah to be an artistic hack, he begins to copycat his nemesis’s style in an attempt to win the girl back. When that doesn’t work, he turns to the maudlin local boozer and failed artist Jimmy (Jim Broadbent) in search of help and eventually appropriates Jimmy’s strikingly vicious paintings as his own. No matter what he does, he struggles in his attempts to vie for Audrey’s affection and cannot get any recognition for his work from his self-absorbed art teacher, Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich). When a killer on the loose begins to murder people on campus, Jerome may just have an unusual way to exploit the otherwise disturbing events to his advantage.

What to Expect: From the warped mind of Terry Zwigoff, the director of cult classics like Ghost World, Bad Santa, and his breakthrough documentary, Crumb, comes another tale of an awkward outsider. For Art School Confidential, Zwigoff is re-teaming with comic book writer Daniel Clowes, who adapted his own material for the film. The two have collaborated once before on Ghost World, with splendid results. Zwigoff’s films about fringe-of-society-types tend to have a rather morbid sense of humor and Clowes’s material complements Zwigoff’s fascinations nicely. Ghost World was a tremendously charming and witty love story about two self-proclaimed geeks, played by Steve Buscemi and Thora Birch, who were drawn to each other’s unique personalities, despite the numerous superficial differences between them, like their age. While retaining some of his thematic sensibilities, Zwigoff followed Ghost World with the wonderfully vulgar and much more commercial Bad Santa. Thanks in large part to Billy Bob Thornton’s remarkably self-deprecating performance, the comedy went on to become a resounding success. It is therefore quite understandable that although Zwigoff is returning to Clowes’s material for the source of the story, Art School Confidential may be more in line with the crudeness of Bad Santa than with the subtlety of Ghost World.

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Early reviews have praised the film’s numerous star performances, especially Max Minghella’s (Syriana, Bee Season) portrayal of the young artist hero. Reportedly, the son of Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain) has found the appropriate blend of humor and poignancy. On the other hand, the various supporting turns from Hollywood’s veterans have not received such wide acclaim, but are allegedly memorable for their strikingly oddball qualities. What else could one possibly expect from John Malkovich, who probably belongs on a list with Christopher Walken among the most amusingly peculiar people in the business. Like Walken and, recently, Johnny Depp, the two-time Academy Award nominated Malkovich has a tendency to create characters whose behavior is far out of the ordinary. Watching his twisted creations is an entertaining way to spend some time and his egocentric Professor Sandiford should be no exception. Oscar winner Jim Broadbent has also been credited with fashioning an intriguing character in the film. As the artistic failure Jimmy, he will serve as Jerome’s atypical mentor, sort of the same way that Seymour (Steve Buscemi) was to Edith (Thora Birch) in Ghost World (and I’m not suggesting a homosexually romantic link between the two here). Filled with entertaining performances from Joel Moore, Ethan Suplee, and Nick Swardson as Jerome’s inane buddies and the legendary Anjelica Huston as his art history professor, Art School Confidential will prominently feature one of those amusing arrays of anomalous characters.

In spirit, the film should be closer to Bad Santa and as such, will probably have more of a satirical edge than Ghost World. Without question, the pretentiousness of the art world will be on full display and Zwigoff will not be able to resist some tongue-in-cheek commentary. Given his fondness for irregular personalities, the film’s primary focus will be on the uniqueness of the individuals in the story. In the past, Zwigoff has treated his characters lovingly rather than mockingly and I wouldn’t expect anything different this time around either, but I can imagine that he will have some targets to pick on. Reportedly, the film feels a bit too much like a watered-down version of Ghost World, which may not bode well for the film critically. I find the serial killer subplot in particular to be a bit excessive and unnecessary. However, the approach could result in a more viscerally entertaining movie that mainstream audiences might find irresistible. I rarely prefer films that sacrifice subtlety for accessibility, but there’s nothing wrong with a well-made, easygoing theatrical experience. If the story will seem a bit too soft for some, especially for the Zwigoff fans, at least there should be lots of pleasure drawn from the characters. I mentioned previously that Minghella is already creating buzz, but I feel that the eccentric Malkovich should generate the most laughs as the pompous and narcissistic art professor.

In Conclusion: Art School Confidential will be one of those comedies that is filled with a lot of jerks, but at the center, has the story of a nice guy and his boyish crush. Admittedly, that description oversimplifies the film and some of the poignancy that it will probably contain, but I think the movie will probably come off as Zwigoff’s least risky endeavor. As long as film snobs don’t expect an overwhelmingly thought provoking film and mainstream audiences don’t get surprised by a few unconventional moments, everyone should walk away with some satisfaction. Honestly, I would say that this could become Zwigoff’s biggest hit, if it wasn’t for the title. I’m sure some may quickly be scared off by the “Art School” part, subconsciously equating it with “art film.” They will not be that far off necessarily, but they may miss out on some good laughs.

Similar Titles: Bad Santa, Ghost World, Rushmore
May 12th, 2006 (wide)
May 5th, 2006 (limited)
October 10th, 2006 (DVD)

Sony Pictures

Terry Zwigoff

John Malkovich, Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, Jim Broadbent, Anjelica Huston, Ethan Suplee, Adam Scott, Ezra Buzzington, Matt Keeslar, Nick Swardson, Joel Moore

Total: 12 vote(s).

Comedy, Drama

Click here to view site

Rated R for language including sexual references, nudity and a scene of violence.

102 min






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