For The Love Of Film is a weekly column from film nerd and lover of all movies Justin Proper. Sometimes you need some help to figure out how to enjoy movies, and we are here to help! No longer will you need to fear movie night because your friends have no taste in film. With this column you will be able to love even the worst gems to ever grace the silver screen.
If you are anything like me than a lot of your friends went to art school after high school. If that does not sound like you then you must have at least been aware of the “artsy weirdos” or whatever your clique called them. Much like with any group of friends the art kids had their stereotypical qualities that existed for a reason. The jocks actually were really into sports and were generally popular, the nerds killed it at class but were a bit socially awkward, so on and so forth. There is a movie out there that tackles the subject of art school kids in a funny and insightful way, and while it may not be the greatest film ever it certainly is worth a watch.
The first thing you should know about this movie is that it was directed by Terry Zwigoff, and that name should ring a bell. He is the mind behind Ghost World (the movie, not the comic), which is widely regarded as a great film. No? Ghost World is still too obscure? Alright, fine, he directed Bad Santa. That is really about it for him, though, as he stopped making films after Art School Confidential, which sucks because he has a dark sense of humor that comes through in his films in a way that very few filmmakers can match.
Art School Confidential is about a guy named Jerome who just graduated high school and set off to art school to become a great artist. That is really the whole plot. He struggles, falls in love, all your basic “going away to college” fair but with an art school twist and a healthy dose of dark humor. Anyone who has gone off to school and had trouble finding their own way to go about life will immediately relate to Jerome.
While Jerome may have been played by a relatively unknown actor (Max Minghella) the rest of the cast has some great star power. The most recognizable face is probably one of Jerome’s professors, hilariously played by John Malkovich. His former famous artist turned professor is jaded and full of contempt with just the right amount of passive agression to seem very real. Other stars in the film include Ethan Suplee, Nick Swardson, Anjelica Huston, Adam Scott, Joel David Moore, and a great cameo by Steve Buscemi. Most of these actors were used before they “made it” so you get a lot of them in minor roles that are still quite memorable.
Back to Jerome. This is one of my favorite character transformations from any movie ever. Without giving away what happens in the end of the film I will say that Jerome goes from content and hopeful to nihilistic, uncaring, and cynical and the transition is beautiful. We have all felt the way Jerome does at some point. So beaten down by the world that you just hope everything burns because nothing matters. It is dark, but it is delivered in such a sly way that it becomes entertaining and humorous. In addition, Jerome is not the only character we see changing over the year. Both of his roommates change in significant ways, but never so much that it takes the focus off of the main story. Perfect storytelling.
At the end of the day Art School Confidential was not well received and it did not win any awards but maybe it should have. It is a great look at growing up with a realistically dark way about it that the masterful Terry Zwigoff turned in to comedy gold. I am not saying you need to run out and buy this film (although you absolutely should) I am just saying you should give it an honest chance and appreciate for what it is: a great art house film about art school.