The Art of Getting By is another one of those small movies that may get lost in the summer swarm because it’s good, but not good enough to generate much buzz.

The film stars Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland) as George, a smart but fatalistic teen who doesn’t see the value in completing his schoolwork, because hey – we’re all just gonna die someday anyway. That argument doesn’t hold much water with the school’s principal (Blair Underwood) who gives George an ultimatum to complete a year’s worth of homework assignments in the next three weeks– or don’t bother coming to graduation.

The ultimatum doesn’t motivate George nearly as much as his budding friendship with a pretty, but complicated classmate named Sally (Emma Roberts). After he impulsively covers for her when she’s about to be caught smoking on the school’s roof, Sally invites the loner George into her active social circle and the two develop a special bond that is both sweet and awkward.

The Art of Getting By is a somewhat typical coming-of-age story loaded with the usual mix of teen angst, troubles at home, indifference at school, romantic rivalries and emotional turmoil. It’s also sweet and sensitive and sometimes funny. But it feels surprisingly long given its 84 minute running time.

On the plus side, Highmore and Roberts seem to be mastering the transition from “kid actor” to “Actor” with remarkable skill and grace. I expect good things from both in the years ahead.

The Art of Getting By is rated PG-13 for all the reasons you’d expect in an angst-ridden coming-of-age flick – drinking, mature themes, teen lust, etc., but it doesn’t ever get raunchy. Bonus points for that!

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