With a penchant for getting kicked out of private schools, Marilyn Bartlett decides to send her son to a public school. Charlie arrives on the first day and falls victim to being the new guy. Beaten up and harassed, he stays home the next day and sees the family psychiatrist. Trying to take another attempt at fitting in, he attempts to befriend the bully who beat him up by going into business together. They choose to sell the medication provided to him by his psychiatrist at a school dance. When he realizes there is an opportunity to serve as a help to the other students, he opens up shop in the boys restroom. Giving out advice and prescribing medication he is able to swindle from multiple psychiatrists, he becomes the talk of the school and a pain in the side of Principal Gardner. Charlie only makes their relationship more contentious as he begins to date his daughter, Susan.
Starring: Anton Yelchin (Charlie Bartlett), Robert Downey Jr. (Nathan Gardner), Kat Dennings (Susan Gardner), Hope Davis (Marilyn Bartlett), Tyler Hilton (Murphy Bivens), Mark Rendall (Kip Crombwell), Dylan Taylor (Len Arbuckle), Megan Park (Whitney Drummond), Derek McGrath (Superintendent Sedgewick), Noam Jenkins (Dean West)
In similar types of teen dramas, there is usually a strong-minded lead character. In this case, Anton Yelchin serves in this roles and does well to exude the confidence necessary to make his character memorable. Though at time a little stuffy, he actually matches the description of his character. Downey Jr. has a more subdued personality (at least at the start of the story), but he fills his role perfectly. Hope Davis has a bit of a “head-in-the-clouds” sense throughout the story though she does not seem to be able to assert herself in a way to increase the significance of her character. Dennings was a good fit to partner with Yelchin but her performance does not necessarily stand out in comparison to her other roles.
Jon Poll and Gustin Nash put together a rather interesting perspective on a troubled outcast who is trying to find acceptance. Charlie Bartlett has teenage angst that is a little different than most. With his father imprisoned and living a fairly lonely life with his wealthy mother, Charlie had been bouncing from school to school after testing the waters and engaging in behaviors that drew attention to him. When he arrived at his first public school, he quickly found it more difficult to fit in, at least until he came across Murphy. In order to make friends and try to do some good, he decided to take on some risky ventures in drug therapies and throwing parties. Although the methods acquired him more attention from his peers, he continued to neglect the main reason he acted out the way he did. He was forced to grow up faster than he should have and it took an extreme event to force him to reconsider his relationships with others.
Behind the whole issue of Charlie having grown up too fast is his tattered relationship with his father. While the viewer never meets his father, this element is far more important than the time it is given in the film. The image is still there that his life of excess and his damaged family structure left him in a precarious position in comparison to his peers, but the incident that caused him to lose respect for his father was rather significant. He avoided going to visit his father in prison until he is confronted with his maturity issues by Nathan Gardner. Once he was able to take that big step, his true path to maturity was able to begin.
This is a rather interesting film and has an element of quirkiness that makes it stand out, even though it was rather ignored by most. It is not an Academy nod-level film but still enjoyable.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5