Disappointing. Dan Clowes’ original comic story is hysterical, but it’s a collection of observations, so naturally a story had to be crafted to make a film. Jerome, a naive kid from the suburbs, becomes a freshman at Strathmore, an art school where stereotypical students believe their unique voice will shine through, setting them off as the next big thing in the art world. Jerome strives to become a great artist, but the sexually-inexperienced freshman may simply believe this will help capture the love of “his muse” Audrey, whose picture he saw in the college brochure. A second storyline going on in the background about a strangler who might be affiliated with the campus.
The movie’s best when it concentrates on the budding artists interrelationships and how they critique each other. The story builds to a grand joke and it wouldn’t be a bad one. But we get there far sooner than the filmmakers, so the surprise required to land the joke is gone. Plus, Jerome attempts a ploy to win the girl’s affection that results in him missing out on a massive clue that’s so obvious, he appears stupid. The film is unsparing in its critique of all the characters, but I don’t think it wants us to think Jerome is dumb. There’s definitely moments here, but the whole is sadly lacking.