REVIEW: CHARLIE BARTLETT
Among the classic high-school rebels of
American movies, there have been truants, delinquents,
pranksters and con artists – but there has never been anyone
quite like Charlie Bartlett. An optimist, a truth-teller and
a fearless schemer, when Charlie slyly positions himself as
his new school’s resident “psychiatrist,” dishing out both
honest advice and powerful prescriptions, he has no idea the
ways in which he will transform his classmates, the school
principal and the potential of his own life.
This is the premise of the provocative, Prozac-era comedy,
CHARLIE BARTLETT, in which a wealthy teenager’s foray into
bathroom-stall psychiatry becomes a smart, funny and
touching one-man battle against the loneliness, angst and
hypocrisy of the modern world.
REVIEW: One of the most fundamental
desires of high school students is not necessarily to get good grades, to be a
star athlete or on the cheerleading squad, or to be the class president; it is
acceptance. Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is a rich and talented high school
kid who has the best of intentions but his driving force is acceptance and
popularity. He is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Does this sound
familiar? One would think that acceptance is the least of his problems
considering his background. But no, not for Charlie which demonstrates that
this issue affects all walks of life. This movie was pleasantly charming and
sweet mostly due to Charlie. It has been compared to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
as a modern version of the instant classic. Yes there are plenty of
similarities, but Ferris is more comedy than anything else and Charlie is a lot
more dramatic. You get the same result when comparing it to Van Wilder, a more
recent Ferris Bueller style comedy. Charlie Bartlett touches on real issues
that a lot of our youth face today: drug use (both street drugs as well as
prescription drugs), psychological problems, depression, suicide, divorced
parents, peer abuse, pressure, privacy, sex, parent-child and young couple
relationships, imprisoned parent, alcoholism, and trust to name a few. Yeah, so
you can see that this film dives a lot deeper into the world of high school.
But don’t worry, the movie is even more comical than it is dramatic. This
one-two punch has the makings of a winner.
Anton rolls with the punches effectively in handling this challenging
character. Last time I saw him was in Alpha Dog as the kidnapped kid and he did
a decent job with that. Regardless, this is a good sized leap from that role to
this one for Anton and he does it justice. Is he the next Matthew Broderick or
even Ryan Reynolds? Well he comes close but you definitely see potential. He
presents a rebellious but honorable Charlie who oozes wit and charm. He is both
a con artist and an entrepreneur and you can’t help but to cheer him on. The
icing on the cake is that he is just a kid, a regular, normal kid. Robert
Downey Jr. plays Principal Gardner who is Susan Gardner’s father. Susan, played
by Kat Dennings, happens to be Charlie’s love interest which only complicates
the relationships between Charlie, Susan, and the Principal. You might remember
Kat from 40 Year Old Virgin as the daughter. Kat delivers a sharp role but
nothing extraordinary. Robert delivers a strong performance but nowhere near as
entertaining as the infamous role played by Jeffrey Jones as the Principal on a
mission in Ferris Bueller. The rest of the supporting cast did a good job in
keeping the picture flowing smoothly.
Generally speaking, the acting can only be as strong as the script allows it to
be. In other words, good acting goes hand in hand with a good script. This case
is no different. The script is direct and intelligent but not complicated.
Having a good script is usually driven by a good story. This story is as
charming as Charlie Bartlett himself. Director Jon Poll has done an impressive
job with this major directorial debut. With extensive work under his belt as
editor of some big name movies, I’m not too surprised that he pulled this off.
So is this the next instant classic of this genre, like its predecessors Ferris
Bueller and Van Wilder? It could very well be . . . but it depends on you.
Review By Cine Marcos
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