Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Charlie Bartlett

Originally uploaded by Alessandra Ogeda
Charlie Bartlett is a rich teen whose eccentricities have been nurtured by his mother and caused him to be expelled from every private school with a stamp until he is forced into public school. Charlie ends up at the public high school of Principal Gardner and though Charlie suffers his lumps and bruises at first he finally finds his place among the student population as amateur shrink, and all-around problem solver who deals behavioral meds on the side and helps the students through the issues they can’t take to their parents. Charlie’s popularity weighs on Principal Gardner because the superintendent beings to blame the student bodies behavior on Gardner being unable to control Charlie, and because Charlie is dating his daughter. In the end, Charlie and Gardner both have to figure out what they want and how they got to this point in their lives in order to truly accept who they are.

When the trailers first came out for Charlie Bartlett I really wanted to see it, but it was in limited release and it slipped past me. I was reminded of the film when I saw Star Trek and the phenomenal Anton Yelchin who just happens to be the lead character in Charlie Bartlett.

After seeing Yelchin in Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation I knew he had talent, but Charlie Bartlett sealed the deal. This kid is going to be huge and he is one of the most talented young actors I have seen in years. Yelchin has the ability to literally put on a character’s skin, get inside their emotional life and become another person; while every actor can do this on some level there is no denying that just like any talent some actors are much more capable than others – Yelchin may be young but he transforms on screen. It’s transfixing to watch and the presence of Robert Downey Jr. in this film made me feel like Downey was stamping his seal of approval on Yelchin, and though the film was decidedly more light-hearted I felt that the level of performance in this film was akin to Downey in Less Than Zero.

Charlie Bartlett is also a wonderfully rounded film. The film goes from comedy to drama with the ease that only great films can, one that seems natural and intrinsic to the film; a shift that makes sense for the characters, the story and the message of the film. Gardner and Charlie are very similar characters at very opposing points in their lives and when the characters finally bond at the end of the film each causes the other to wake up to the things they’d been ignoring about themselves and this is done without being trite, heavy-handed or blasé.

I cannot recommend Charlie Bartlett enough. This is an incredible movie with an incredible cast and if I had the money it would already be a part of my collection instead of just another notch off my Netflix queue.

Director: Jon Poll
Wrriter: Gustin Nash
Charlie Bartlett: Anton Yelchin
Principal Gardner: Robert Downey Jr.
Marilyn Bartlett: Hope Davis
Susan Gardner: Kat Dennings
Murphey: Tyler Hilton

Charlie Bartlett: Well duh dude, this place sucks. But I just worry that one day we're gonna look back at high school and wish we'd done something different.

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