Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

John Malkovich (L) &
Matt Keeslar
Photo: Suzanne Hanover/Song Pictures Classics

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Directed by: Terry Zwigoff.
Written by: Daniel Clowes.
Produced by: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich & Russell Smith.
Director of Photography: Jamie Anderson.
Edited by: Robert Hoffman.
Music by: David Kitay.
Released by: Sony Pictures Classics.
Country of Origin: USA. 102 min. Rated: R.
With: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Ethan Suplee, Matt Keeslar, Anjelica Huston & Jim Broadbent.

Beyond being written and directed by Ghost World collaborators Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, what made Art School Confidential look so promising was its premise. Surely the tired reassembling of stereotypes in most college comedies could be avoided with the fresh idea to make a movie about art students, those unique bundles of pretensions and voracious sexual proclivity. Unfortunately, Clowes was too busy trying to steal Jack Black’s cultural seat of power to concern himself with recreating Ghost World’s impeccably subtle wit. (Even worse, he forgot to take Black’s sense of humor).

As many films have gone before, so it goes here: our suitably doe-eyed freshman narrator, Jerome (Max Minghella), is the only normal person in his entire university. Between the angry lesbians and the angry feminists, the overweight film majors, the beautiful but psychotic acting majors, and the lecherous professors, it’s amazing that he could even find a woman sane enough to lust after.

But don’t be fooled, the film spends most of its time showcasing a parade of flat supporting characters. Road Trip had a better plot just by virtue of actually having one. There’s also something about a serial killer, but since it’s little more than a footnote, I won’t give it any more credibility than the filmmakers gave it. Even more disappointing, Zwigoff’s quirky camera play that made Ghost World, Crumb, and even Bad Santa interesting is wholly absent here.

To be fair, there are a handful of brilliant one-liners. And producer John Malkovich’s turn as Jerome’s professor, a pretentious “post-minimalist,” is hilarious – but Confidential’s other cameos by Angelica Huston and Steve Buscemi are wasted opportunities, roles solely created to prop up other characters. Instead of being a satire, Clowes just adds a new setting to an old formula, regrettably without humor or ingenuity. Zachary Jones
May 5, 2006



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