With apologies to James Joyce, this film could just as easily
have been titled
PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. The
lead character, Jerome Platz (Max Minghella), is an ambitious student
who has always believed he was destined for greatness as an artist.
In a brief introductory segment, we are introduced to the young Jerome
who is frequently beaten up by school bullies because of his "artistic
temperament." In a class devoted to selecting a person with whom
the student most identifies, he selects Pablo Picasso, and his lifelong
goal is to achieve the fame and notoriety that Picasso did.

    To secure his future, Jerome leaves the comforts of suburbia and
enrolls at art school in New York City. He's a talented craftsman but
he's smugly assured of his lofty position and it isn't long before Jerome
is knocked down a few pegs, particularly by a jockish classmate Jonah
(Matt Keeslar) who seems to be out of place. Jonah also turns into a
romantic rival for the affections of an older model (Sophia Myles)
whose father is a famous artist.

    In the background, but no less important, are a string of unsolved
murders where the victims are strangled. Jerome's film-obsessed
roommate (Ethan Suplee) plans to make a movie about the crimes with
backing from his grandfather.

    ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL meanders a bit but Zwigoff manages
to maintain a consistent tone with his direction. And he has cast the
film with some wonderful actors. In the lead role, Minghella delivers
a pitch-perfect portrayal of a conflicted kid. One minute he is
self-assured, even arrogant regarding his artwork, the next he's a shy
romantic trying desperately to impress the pretty girl. Keeslar does
a nice job as his rival in both art and love. Myles is fine as the
beautiful but slightly complicated model. (She's even been given a
former lesbian lover portrayed by
THE L WORD co-star Katherine
Moennig. There's also terrific work offered by Anjelica Huston as one
of the teachers, Adam Scott as an arrogant successful former student
who has little that is nice to say about his years at the school, Jim
Broadbent as a dissolute artist who is harboring a big secret, John
Malkovich as a prissy teacher more interested in his own career than
his student's work, and Joel David Moore as one of Jerome's
classmates.

    By the time the film arrived at its third act, I had pretty much
figured out where it was heading. It isn't much of a spoiler to say that
the two strands of the story finally weave together, just not in the way
that one might expect. Jerome will be forced to make a choice that
will have profound impact on his future. Despite the failings in the
screenplay (which was based on a comic story),
ART SCHOOL
CONFIDENTIAL
managed to hold my interest to the end thanks to
the strong acting and Zwigoff's tight direction.


       
Rating:                 B-
       
MPAA Rating:        R for language including sexual references,
                                         nudity and a scene of violence
       
Running time:       102 mins.
Art School Confidential
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.