Like the socially awkward art students it depicts, Art School Confidential is at turns endearing and cringe-inducing. It’s best to focus on the endearing qualities. This is the third feature from director Terry Zwigoff, whose previous odes to misfit souls are Bad Santa and Ghost World (as well as the documentary Crumb). Zwigoff is in his element here, but at times the element gets away from him. Max Minghella stars as Jerome Platz, a put-upon high-schooler who sees art school as his salvation. Once Jerome gets to campus, however, he finds that art school has an oppressive social hierarchy of its own. Art School Confidential nicely satirizes this closed, narcissistic subculture – no one is spared, from the pretentious students to the artistically frustrated teachers, including a hilariously low-key John Malkovich – but the movie unwisely tries to spread its wings by giving way to a serial-killer subplot. Even though Clowes tries to tie it in thematically with the topic of shock art, the picture never recovers.