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Art School Confidential (R)

Release Date: May 5th, 2006 by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Cast: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, Matt Keeslar, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Anjelica Huston, Joel Moore, Scoot McNairy, Ethan Suplee.
Directed by Terry Zwigoff.

BASIC PREMISE: Jerome (Minghella) struggles to find love and hone his talent for art in art school while, concurrently, a mysterious serial killer strangles victims on campus.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Art School Confidential begins as a biting comic satire of art school and art itself, but quickly becomes a dark comedy without enough comedy. Jerome doesn’t quite fit in with the crowd in his art school. Professor Sandiford (Malkovich), his art professor, comes across as odd, arrogant and intimidating, but very funny in an off-beat way. Screenwriter Daniel Clowes includes other colorful characters including a roommate (Suplee) who films a weird movie about a serial killer—even weirder than the film-within-the film in Ghost World called Mirror, Father, Mirror by Roberta Allsworth, the art teacher. Jerome has his eye on a beautiful girl named Audrey (Myles) who he meets when she poses nude for his class. It turns out that he has competition when she focuses her attention on Jonah (Keesler), a typically handsome jock. To thicken the plot, Clowes adds a contrived and predictable murder-mystery involving a campus strangler on the loose. Jim Broadbent is great in a small role and so is Steve Buscemi in an even tinier role. If only there were more of Buscemi. The same goes for Anjelica Huston who shows up too briefly as an art history professor. Unfortunately, Art School Confidential doesn’t maintain a plausible plot and witty, memorable dialogue just like in Terry Zwigoff’s brilliant Ghost World. Clowes tries too hard to shock and surprise the audience with the twisted third act, but ends up turning the film into one big, disastrous mess.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: In one interesting scene with somewhat of a message, Professor Sandiford gives out A’s to everyone in the class. That brings up an important: how can anyone, let alone a professor, put a concrete evaluation on a subjective work of art? For that matter, should an art student design his/her art in order to please the professor? This film doesn’t really have a solid answer to these questions. Bardo (Moore), a rebellious art student, sends a strong message of the freedom of self-expression when he mocks the Professor Sandiford by drawing an ugly portrait of him. He pays a price for not conforming, but at least he does something unique and meaningful rather than something mundane and forgettable like the conformists who do whatever pleases the teacher to get an A. Ultimately, Art School Confidential doesn’t pack an emotional punch like Ghost World does. Stick around for past the end credits for an additional scene.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A convoluted, unfocused plot with a messy ending.


IN A NUTSHELL: Occasionally witty and funny, but way too convoluted and not nearly as insightful and emotionally-resonating as Ghost World.


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