Homework is a disappointingly bland, coming-of-age tale about malcontent teenagers, placed in a world so ridiculous, the film simply begs not to be taken seriously. Sundance should be ashamed of bringing this film into a year where the lineup is particularly strong. And director Gavin Wiesen should have skipped the independent film step all together and gone immediately to direct Sandra Bullock films where he’ll consistently make plenty of money, and plenty of Golden Razzies.
The cast is led by Freddie Highmore, the actor who broke as the adorably depressed orphan in Finding Neverland. Since then, he’s consistently chosen mediocre projects that actually seem to be a good fit for him. He plays George, a fatalistic teenager who’s about to graduate a private high school in New York, despite having never turned in a single assignment for the last year.
He’s really meant to be depressed, but Highmore just doesn’t have the skills to make anyone believe it. He doesn’t seem to be able to do anything without a half smile and a glint in his eye. If we can’t believe he’s depressed, we must believe he’s just lazy. And what is interesting or new about a lazy, unmotivated teenager unsatisfied with what is actually a pretty good life?
George is paired with a popular girl named Sally, also meant to seem unhappy. She’s played by Emma Roberts, who’s reprising her role from It’s Kind of a Funny Story. George begins to be mentored by a successful artist in his twenties, played by Michael Angarano. If you don’t immediately see a love triangle that leaves George out in the cold, this probably is a film you’ll enjoy.
In this attempted creation of a world where high school is meant to seem like the catalyst for the rest of your life, Wiesen has placed all his teenage characters in apartments where they live by themselves. They run hip dance clubs during New Year’s Eve celebrations, and if any of the characters need to have mildly serious talk, they go to a bar, and do it over a beer. Despite the fact they all look like they’re thirteen years old.
Even though George’s parents are getting evicted from the offices of their business, and forced to sell their apartment, he still seems to have plenty of money to drink champagne out of the bottle, or to take Sally out to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. The whole thing seems disingenuous, artifically emotional, and overall unsatisfying. And with a soundtrack that must have cost the filmmakers much more than the entire budgets of most of the films at Sundance, Homework sticks out as an awkward, sore thumb.