Art School Confidential ★★★½

During undergrad art school my classmates quoted and referenced this film incessantly, but despite being a fan of Dan Clowes I never got around to watching it until now, on the eve of my return to this strange dimension.

Given that this is based on a short comic that has no plot or characters to speak of, I wasn't really sure what to expect beyond a few laughs, but I was pleased to find that the film is in fact supported by a fairly solid storyline and some memorable, if rather exaggerated, personalities. The introduced subplots are familiar film standbys (serial killer, love triangle), but in this context they seem a bit more fresh than they otherwise might. The film even manages some deft misdirections that pay off wonderfully.

The humor is good too. Despite the fact that all the characters are the sort of oddball nuts who self-select into art schools, the script is not at all mean-spirited. Instead the jokes take a sort of bemused distance, trusting the larger-than-life personalities to be inherently funny rather than going out of its way to pile additional humiliations onto them. These are exactly the kind of people that make easy targets for writers of bad comedy, but here they are viewed with something almost like compassion. Sure, they're a bunch of weirdos, but they're our weirdos, and we love 'em.

Would I recommend this film to everyone? Probably not, because I suspect it probably loses something if the viewer hasn't been through this particular underworld personally. But for those of us who have, yes, this is one funny, uncomfortable, and familiar little tale.