In independent films, there is a fallback into thinking your main character is too interesting. The world warps around them as everyone is fascinating by their every move and they all see their true potential. This only works if the main character is worth examining this much of the running time.
George Zinavoy isn’t worthy.
Everyone says he’s very deep, complicated, and thinks a lot but even with a voice over that doesn’t seem to be very true. He recently realized that he is going to die one day so what’s the point of doing homework. He says he thinks about important things instead, but we never hear about anything that important. He’s depressed because he says he’s depressed.
Really he’s just a poser. He’s an annoyingly simple person who treats others poorly. He’s predictable and dull. Yet this world can’t stop talking about him. Teachers are obsessed with him, students are in awe of him, and everything will work out for him if he allows it.
He doesn’t have any friends, but he runs into Sally played by Emma Roberts. Roberts has been stuck playing the same part for the last few films. She’s the independent young woman who befriends a moody teen who is “complex” and inspires him to feel better about who he is. See It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Twelve. That’s fine if she’s a catalyst, but she also needs to be her own character, not just a reactionary one.
What is there to learn if there are no consequences for his actions? He doesn’t do his homework for an entire year or pay attention during class. So the school bends over backwards to give him a get out of jail free card, equipped with a montage solution that doesn’t even faze George.
A few actors come out okay in this magnetized mistake. Blair Underwood gives solid work as the principal, Roberts continues to show potential if she ever gets the chance, and Freddie Highmore makes a nice return post-puberty despite not having a single good line of dialog.
With a backdrop like New York City and this cast, it’s painful to realize how boring the film is. This is one of those films that played at Sundance to negative reviews, but still got picked up because it has some market value to it. Unfortunately it’s too bland, too forgettable to ever find an audience, even with amongst those who classify themselves as “complex.”