ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIALR
One of the best things about the late, lamented HBO series "Six Feet Under" was the character of Claire Fisher and her forays into the netherworld of art school insanity. The psycho students, utterly self-absorbed teachers and ridiculous, navel-gazing work, all added up to a brilliant satire of post-modern art and its practitioners.
If you still have fond memories of those episodes, Art School Confidential will only make you miss them even more. Although director Terry Zwigoff has made some excellent comedies in the past-particularly the brilliantly nasty Bad Santa-his latest suffers from snail-like pacing, an underwhelming central character and the "shooting fish in a barrel" syndrome: The film's targets are all too obvious.
At the center of Art School Confidential is Jerome Platz (Max Minghella)-talented artist, virgin, nerd. While attending art school in New York, he falls in with the usual gaggle of stereotypes-the gay fashion-design student, untalented filmmaker, beatnik slut goddess and angry lesbian-while also falling head over heels for Audrey, the model in his life-studies class (Sophia Myles).
Max wants to impress Audrey no end. So he sketches near-brilliant drawings of her from life, but unfortunately, his realist style is totally out of sync with the taste of his teacher, Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich), and the rest of the "anything goes" class. They prefer the infantile work of Jonah (Matt Keeslar), who draws spacemen and cars in the style of an outsider artist, and is actually an undercover cop trying to catch a serial killer who has been terrorizing the neighborhood.
Quicker than you can say "deus ex machina," Max becomes inadvertently involved with the real serial killer (Jim Broadbent), a failed artist whose work our hero appropriates as his own. No spoilers here, but the climax of the film-How Max Attains Fame and Fortune-can be seen from a mile, and 20 minutes, away.
The problems here are manifold, including a less-than-charismatic performance by Minghella, and Zwigoff's inability to establish any sort of comedic rhythm. Art School Confidential plods along from scene to scene, occasionally coming up with a solid guffaw, but never really working up much energy. The comic-book nature of the script by Zwigoff's Ghost World collaborator Daniel Clowes doesn't help-caricatures are not characters. Ultimately, you get the feeling that Zwigoff realized he was working with material that was hackneyed and well past its expiration date.
For a fresher, funnier and darker take on the subject, viewers are referred to seasons one through five of "Six Feet Under."