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Who Is CHARLIE BARTLETT, And Should We Bother Seeing Him?!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I’ve heard a little bit about this one, and I’ve tried to make a few screenings, but timing has prevented me thus far. Still... sounds interesting.

Tonight I got to see Charlie Bartlett at the Los Angeles Film Festival and all I can say is SEE THIS MOVIE. If you’ve been waiting to see a real teen movie since 1985 when the credits to The Breakfast Club stopped rolling, the genie has granted your wish. This is a rated-R honest to god funny, real, touching teen flick. And if you want more of them, I implore that you support this one. I haven’t seen any advertising for this, although my roommate swears he’s seen a trailer, and it’s coming out at the beginning of August, so it could easily slip through the cracks, but this is the type of movie that isn’t being made anymore. At the Q and A afterwards, the filmmakers copped to Harold and Maude being an influence, and while this is lighter in tone than that, they come from the same ilk. Let me get the prerequisite plant talk out of the way. I ain’t one. But I do happen to like this movie, and I’m not going to pretend not to. Chalie Bartlett is a weird kid. His goal at this point in life is to be popular. This has led to him being kicked out of every school he’s ever attended, right before becoming the coolest kid his classmates have ever seen. His mother has treated him as an adult from an early age, and it shows. He’s well spoken, he’s cordial, and he knows how to listen. In some ways he’s more enlightened than the teachers around him, which often leads to conflict. The movie starts with Charlie (Anton Yelchin) being ejected from his most recent prep school, and now having to brave the halls of the public system. He starts his first day in a sports jacket carrying an attache case and promptly gets the crap beat out of him. His mom (Hope Davis) sends him to a psychiatrist where he is prescribed Ritalin. This leads to a psychotic drug-fuelled episode but gives Charlie the idea to sell the Ritalin to others. If it got him high, the kids gotta love it. Charlie befriends the bully who beat him and together they start a drug ring. Kind of. Really, Charlie does some research and becomes a make-shift psychiatrist to all the kids of his school, operating out of the boys bathroom. His patients sit in one stall, while he listens from the next. He “prescribes” them what he feels necessary. That’s the first twenty minutes which lead to a lot of laughs and a lot of real teen life. If that sounds schmaltzy, it’s not. Nothing is rosy in this movie. Everything is played real. My only criticism I’m actually ambivalent about. I feel like there aren’t that many strong emotional beats, but there are a lot of minor ones. And maybe that’s the way it should be. They might have played those moments up, but they chose to make them more realistic. There’s something to respect there. The cast is superb. Charlie Bartlett could have been played by a more leading-man type, but by casting Anton Yelchin they made the character quite a bit more interesting. He’s someone who has to earn respect from his peers, and he does it by actually connecting with them. Robert Downey, Jr. plays the principal and father to Charlie’s love interest played by Kat Dennings. He also has an alcohol problem, which with knowledge of the actor’s past, makes this a pretty brave role. Personally, I always think Downey Jr. knocks it out of the park, but this is a grand slam. You can literally see his admiration and contempt of Charlie evidenced on his face in every scene. And Kat Dennings is great in her own right. She’s the hot girl next door, and she’s got such a likeability to her that you can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. And for all you Degrassi fans, three major cast members have roles. The filmmakers admitted to filming in Canada. Thematically, there’s a lot going on. A lot of teen flicks touch on popularity, but it’s always the same story. Kid is loser. Kid gets popular. Acts like a dick to all his friends. Learns popularity doesn’t mean anything (anyone who’s lived a day on planet Earth can tell you that’s a load of crap). Here we have a kid striving for popularity and he attains it, but it’s not so bad. No it’s not everything, but to a kid in high school it’s a helluva lot. And he’s actually still nice to everyone. You rarely see an edgy teen flick where the lead is just so damn…kind. But what do you do with popularity once you have it? This is one of the film’s central conceits, and there‘s a lot of adults leading this country who could probably do to consider it. The over-medication of today’s youth is another point. On this one, I feel there isn’t as clear a thesis, but it brings up the issue and explores it in ways not too standard. There’s a myriad of other teen-life topics explored as well. And they never tackle them in ways you’d expect. I don’t want to spoil too much of the movie, so I won’t say more. If you like the works of Wes Anderson, John Hughes, Hal Ashby or just have a penchant for dramedies and teen flicks this one is for you. The most comparable movie in recent years is probably Igby Goes Down, but this is less jaded. Afterwards, the director, Jon Poll, asked that we tell all our friends about it, so that’s why I’m writing this. Go see it. You won’t be sorry. 3½ out of 4 Raoul Duke
Readers Talkback
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  • July 1, 2007, 10 p.m. CST

    first

    by Rex Manning

    sounds as cool as FREAK OUT

  • July 1, 2007, 10:03 p.m. CST

    real teen movie?

    by BadMrWonka

    like Superbad?

  • July 1, 2007, 10:06 p.m. CST

    literally

    by BadMrWonka

    "You can literally see his admiration and contempt of Charlie evidenced on his face in every scene."<p>no, we can't literally see it. just like you can't LITERALLY see the hatred in my eyes when someone misuses the word. there is no LITERAL hatred in my eyes, just cells and nerves, etc. you are seeing my muscles contract, my skin flush, my brow furrow, and those things SIGNIFY that I am hating you.<p>I figuratively want to hit someone with a hammer.

  • July 1, 2007, 10:07 p.m. CST

    oh

    by BadMrWonka

    I suppose he might have meant to say:<p>"You can see his admiration and contempt of Charlie evidenced on his face in literally every scene."<p>that's not so bad...

  • July 1, 2007, 10:41 p.m. CST

    BadMrWonka

    by FrancoNeroLuv

    One of the few things worse than a person misusing the english language in such a way is someone who is so full of themselves that they would actually get Angry and leave hateful messages about it, especially when the first party is just a guy writing a review. Get over yourself buddy.

  • July 1, 2007, 10:53 p.m. CST

    Good but too similar to Rushmore

    by Ash Talon

    I was at the same screening, but I didn't stay for the Q&A (they always are depressing to me, since they reveal that the filmmakers are either full of themselves or the films were happy accidents). Charlie Bartlett is funny. The lead actor is particularily funny with the supporting cast quite good as well. Hope Davis is great but underused. I just felt the movie as a whole was emotionally flat. Charlie needs to be either more innocent or more cocky. As it is, he ultimately feels less like a person and more of a cardboard cut-out you might find in a video store. This is because the story ultimately doesn't have any depth. It treads over issues like chemical dependence, drug pushing, and suicide with such light feet and for easy laughs, than none of these strong issues (especially when referencing teenagers) feel real. There are no emotional payoffs. To say this is realistic doesn't fit the tone of the movie. It isn't realistic by any means (the new geek to the school immediately catches the eye of a cute girl). So we're left with a weird light-hearted look at high school with no real depth or lasting effect. Now, on to the similarities with Rushmore. Both deal with the main kid: having a single-parent (for most parts), being kicked out of a private school, attending public school instead, wearing his private school uniform to public school, starting a play at said public school, dating a girl involved with the school play, casting his bully nemesis in the play, etc etc. I really noticed the set-up was similar to Rushmore but found myself getting into C.B. and laughing quite a bit. After the film (and with more reflection) I realized its similarities to Rushmore, not in tone but in plot points. Too many make me detract from it. Overall, it's funny. Some really nice performances in it. However, it's not very original. And any balls it might have attained by dealing with serious issues are quickly passed by. At least it's not the usual T&A American Pie type teen comedies that have been bombarding us lately.

  • July 2, 2007, 1:36 a.m. CST

    I saw the trailer and it looked horrible...

    by andrew coleman

    This really didn't change my opinion I think I'll avoid this. The kid they casted really pisses me off for some reason I mean not as much as Shia Lebarf but still...

  • July 2, 2007, 3:09 a.m. CST

    I saw the trailer. Didn't look horrible...

    by Bungion Boy

    Looked interesting. Didn't get a huge amazing vibe, as this review suggests, but I certainly would like to see it. Interesting side note, Hope Davis has played Yelchin's mom once before in Hearts in Atlantis.

  • July 2, 2007, 6:04 a.m. CST

    nice review

    by mutombo

    color me interested. and I read in an article somewhere that the reacting on the internet, on message boards and on sites like these etc is an addicting thing. Its addicting because for the posters its trying to be smarter and better than the poster before you. So when someone acts like a smart dick on this site, remember that hes just doing it because he s addicted to showing he is smarter than everyone.

  • July 2, 2007, 7:01 a.m. CST

    Colour me interested

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Good pedigree. Loved Harold & Maude and kids on drugs, so this is more me * <p>*One statement not actually true

  • July 2, 2007, 7:53 a.m. CST

    I liked the trailer.

    by El Scorcho

    I've seen it a few times actually. The lead has pretty unique line delivery and the film looks really quirky. I've also read in a few places that this has "sleeper" written all over it.

  • July 2, 2007, 7:55 a.m. CST

    Trailer link:

    by El Scorcho

    http://tinyurl.com/2azen7

  • July 2, 2007, 9:09 a.m. CST

    its that kid from Curb?!

    by RockLobster800

    the magician one who dressed as Superman at Halloween?

  • July 2, 2007, 2:30 p.m. CST

    Yes But Who Wants To See Plot Or Character?

    by Colier Rannd

    When you can see giant robots blowin' shit up, Am I right? LOL

  • July 2, 2007, 6:32 p.m. CST

    Charlie Bartlett

    by waites

    This movie is getting awesome reviews. It could be a surprise summer hit but the studio needs to spend a few bucks and promote it. I am seeing it opening day. I know that already. Harold and Maude is my all time favorite movie. If this even hints at it.. I will love it.

  • March 3, 2008, 9:23 p.m. CST

    LAST!

    by thebearovingian

    I'm considering seeing this. I'm digging up some old reviews as it has only now gained a wide release.

  • March 4, 2008, 10:31 a.m. CST

    WA-HOO...really last! (for you Orcus)

    by just pillow talk

    Does it taste good thebearovingian?

  • March 16, 2008, 7:43 p.m. CST

    Damn you!

    by thebearovingian

    LAST!!! ???

  • April 26, 2008, 1:08 a.m. CST

    I've listened to Orcus' advice.

    by thebearovingian

    And I choose to completely disregard it. It's quality advice and wise counsel but it's just not for me.

  • April 28, 2008, 7:50 a.m. CST

    he has fallen to the dark side

    by just pillow talk

    he's more machine than man now...

  • April 28, 2008, 9:48 a.m. CST

    remember your training!

    by just pillow talk

  • April 29, 2008, 12:07 a.m. CST

    Master, I promise to return...

    by thebearovingian

    and complete my training. They're my friends. I have to save them.

  • April 29, 2008, 7:40 a.m. CST

    remember the cave!

    by just pillow talk

  • April 29, 2008, 10:04 p.m. CST

    Have you guys ever explored the future on AICN?

    by thebearovingian

    Where every TB is set at Wednesday, December 31, 1969 @ 6pm? Entering a node higher than 36568 (at the moment until a new TB is created) takes you there every time. Jack Bauer is always going to Africa. I've attempted to post a few times and guess what? It's never saved. It's like therapy. Just vent and let it all out. It's like how they say to write a really mean letter with everything bad you'd like to say, and then burn it or rip it up. But it has to go somewhere doesn't it?

  • April 29, 2008, 10:08 p.m. CST

    It's like a wormhole. Only more real.

    by thebearovingian

  • April 29, 2008, 10:24 p.m. CST

    Holy crap!

    by thebearovingian

    I randomly went to node 21000. Huge Aquaf@g TB. I saw your plight, Mr. Banned_Aid. I saw Mori's black box posts. I'm learning so much about AICN history.

  • April 29, 2008, 10:25 p.m. CST

    Oh yeah, it wouldn't let me post there.

    by thebearovingian

  • April 30, 2008, 8:50 a.m. CST

    you'll find that certain threads will be locked down

    by just pillow talk

    after a bit. Take the prince caspian thread that me and my fellow warciples hijacked, or the DTV thread that Bloop, ironic, travis-dane, etc posted to like five or six thousand posts too. Then the mods decide to shut it down.

  • July 12, 2008, 12:35 a.m. CST

    Let's take Charlie Bartlett to 10,000 posts!

    by thebearovingian

    OR at least 40.

  • July 12, 2009, 10:59 p.m. CST

    Whoa. Exactly one year later. Creepy.

    by thebearovingian

    Tag Team, back again. I was so bored last year waiting for The Dark Knight to come out. Man, was it worth it! Summer 2009 has not been as kind.

  • July 13, 2009, 7:43 a.m. CST

    What's with the Charlie Bartlett obsession

    by orcus

  • March 4, 2010, 1:21 a.m. CST

    Charle Bartlett TBs are my Fortress of Solitude.

    by thebearovingian

    And yet, you constantly pop in and my solitude is gone.

  • March 4, 2010, 7:43 a.m. CST

    POP!

    by orcus

    :)

  • May 6, 2011, 2:31 p.m. CST

    POOP! Eeech, that was a wet one

    by orcus

  • July 8, 2011, 12:58 a.m. CST

    what happened to the AICN tracker page?

    by thebearovingian

    Always a 404 now. Guess it's due to all the "upgrades" and "modernization" and "technological improvements" here at AICN that seemed to cause more trouble than they fixed. I never changed my password after the breach. Oops.