Art School Confidential reunites Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes, the team that brought to the screen the adaptation of Clowesâ€™ Ghost World, for a satire of art school from an original screenplay by Clowes. The beginning of the film is very amusing with its caricatures of the students and artists who fill the school, such as the action filmmaker, the teacher suck-up, the â€śthose who donâ€™t, teachâ€ť faculty, but ultimately the film is unsatisfying because it tries to do so many things that it doesnâ€™t do any of them successfully.
None of the characters are compelling enough to make the audience care what happens to them, which may be something the author is commenting on, but that doesnâ€™t work well in a story. The filmâ€™s protagonist, Jerome, a nerdy yet talented artist, is the crux of the problem. For all the storyâ€™s plotlines to work, he has to become so self-absorbed with his own desires for success that he is reduced to a very weak and brainless character, which makes him unappealing.
When Jonah, quite possibly the worst artist in the school, becomes all the rage, it boggles Jeromeâ€™s mind. He is frustrated and has a talk with his professor, played by John Malkovich, who explains to him the difference between talent and now-ness. An artist can always have talent, but it is forces out of an artistâ€™s control that create now-ness. It is one of the two best scenes in the film about art. The other involves Jim Broadbent as a drunken failure who discusses becoming a whore to be an artist.
Jerome falls in love at first sight with Audrey from her photo on the schoolâ€™s brochure. They meet and become the worst thing a man can be to a woman he is attracted to: her friend. His heart is broken when Audrey begins to see Jonah just because he is attractive and popular. Jerome fails to realize that is no different than what he did with her, so the viewer has no sympathy for him as he whines and moans about it. Audrey is definitely a beautiful woman, but she is not the only woman on campus.