After a string of two genuinely fantastic, completely different films (Ghost World & Bad Santa), director Terry Zwigoff makes a major misstep with Art School Confidential, a tedious affair about a gawky boy getting an undeserving girl. Is it supposed to be a Revenge of the Nerds style comedy, a scathing lampoon of the art world, a serial killer thriller, or a hum-drum romance drama? You won't be able to tell, and worse, by the end you probably won't care.
Jerome has dreamed of being a great artist since he was only a child. So he goes to art school to pursue it, only to learn that one in a hundred students actually becomes an artist, and those that make it probably don't deserve it anyway. By then Jerome is too obsessed with his drawing class's nude model to notice the futility of his goal. She's the daughter of a famous artist, and seems to bounce her attention between whichever boy in class has the most potential to make it big. In between the film fumbles about with comedy relief, in the form of Jerome's oddball roommates. They pop up kind of randomly throughout the movie, only to be abandoned for long stretches whenever their presence is no longer convenient.
That's pretty much the movie, a lethargic licking of the art world's balls. I'm not quite sure of Zwigoff actually likes artists, sometimes he seems bent on portraying them all as burnouts, frauds, pedophiles, and mass murderers. But whether he likes them or not, his film spreads itself all over them like a sticky jam; setting up true art as some sort of mystical, unattainable pedestal. Who cares? If you're an art student, you'll probably buy the movie on DVD and rub it all over your body, but for the 99.999% of the population who knows nothing about "real art", doesn’t want to know anything about "real art", and could care less about "real art", it's just another failed college movie about boring characters selling out to get sex. Zwigoff tries to mix in a murder mystery to further confuse things, but it's so out of place in the film that it's easily ignored.
That's not to say there aren't moments in the thing. At times Art School Confidential is almost likable, and the supporting cast is criminally under used. Jim Broadbent shows up briefly and steals the movie as a flamed out, suicidal, former student living in a hovel of an apartment and trading his dire wisdom for bottles of booze. The story's side trips are often funny and entertaining, but the main thrust of it, the story of Jerome looking for meaning as an artist and doggedly pursuing an unworthy, unlikable girl never goes anywhere anyone's going to care about following it, and so kills whatever potential might have been floating around somewhere in this movie.
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