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Charlie Bartlett is a comedy with a message. Some may say that's an
oxymoron. But Jon Poll, directing from a Gustin Nash script, takes on
the task and turns in a hybrid of a film that is so incredibly engaging
you'll wonder why few filmmakers take on such a challenge. The audience
was so loud and boisterous at the World Premiere screening at the
Tribeca Film Festival that it sent the laugh meter off the scale.
Anton Yelchin is Charlie Bartlett, a kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth and an enterprising, albeit mischievous, brain. His antics get him kicked out of one private school after another. But his clever and earnest sincerity is bound to hit the target sooner or later and it does when he is thrown to the public school wolves. The scheme he invents to endear himself to the student body is nothing short of genius, and his performance fits the bill.
Yelchin has made a name for himself playing the smart, sensitive, and innocent tortured kid. Here he gets the chance to stretch his acting chops in a completely different direction. He's confident and anything but vulnerable. The wide range of emotions and the talents he shows here are unsurpassed. He sings, he dances, he plays piano, he does physical comedy and has fight scenes and romantic scenes and just about everything that could be thrown at him. And he looks to be so thoroughly enjoying it, which comes across on screen and proves to be so central to the film. After all, to enjoy a film one must identify somewhat with the protagonist, or at least like him, and Anton does that better than many actors twice his age.
Hope Davis is a riot as his not-quite-all-there mother. It's easy to see the source of Charlie's quirkiness. The relationship between mother and son is playful and mischievous, the kind of "mom as best friend" scenario which often results in tragedy. Here it's played just for laughs, and it works. She is everymom - with a twist of lemon.
Tyler Hilton is perfectly cast as the bully who we know from the start is destined to soften up somewhere along the way. That's what movie bullies do. But he brings an especially charming quality to the role which plays perfectly against Charlie's leanings toward the dark side. It's a delicate balance but Yelchin and Hilton make it work.
Robert Downey Jr. is ironically cast as the substance-addled principal who also happens to be the father of Charlie's love interest. One has to wonder whether Principal Gardner or Downey is speaking in some of the more poignant scenes about alcohol and drugs. It's chilling. Perhaps for that reason alone he is a standout here.
Kat Dennings plays the girl who is out to win Charlie's heart. The dynamic with Downey and Yelchin is a natural source of drama. This is the film's most heartfelt storyline, and Dennings is admirably up to the task.
At times it all feels so real, and it's no wonder -- writer Gustin Nash actually continued to write scenes and dialogue specifically for those actors after the film got underway and it shows.
Charlie Bartlett has the look and feel of a studio film, which should help it find an audience. The subject matter demands an R rating, if only for its content. But it's a film kids need to see. The message is squarely aimed at teens, even younger ones, and parents need to take heed. In the guise of a comedy, a good one at that, Charlie Bartlett has something meaningful to say about the excuses we use to justify our behavior and the chemical coping methods so many of us cling to. And it's d*mn funny.
I saw an advanced screening of Charlie Bartlett at my school with a Q&A
session with the writer and director last April, and I must say, I
haven't enjoyed a movie this much in a VERY long time.
Anton Yelchin is Charlie Bartlett, a young rich boy who has just gotten kicked out of his private school for forging driver's licenses for his fellow students in an attempt to gain some acceptance. As a last resort, his strange mother, played wonderfully by Hope Davis, puts him into public school. At first, he is treated horribly as the 'new boy', until he appoints himself as the school psychiatrist and pharmacist, and the students begin to love him, fulfilling his dreams of popularity. Meanwhile, he begins an intimate relationship with Principal Goldberg's daughter, leading to many conflicts between Charlie and the principal.
Anton Yelchin portrays Charlie flawlessly - the best part was when he got high off of Ritalin - and Kat Dennings was just beautiful. Hope Davis, as always, played his eccentric mother wonderfully, and Robert Downey Jr. was absolutely great.
For any of you who are wondering about Mark Rendall's role in this film, he has a relatively large part as Kip Cromwell, the unpopular, depressed boy who comes to Charlie for help. I must say he is AMAZING. He does a beautiful job expressing his character's many and layered emotions.
Anyhow, GREAT MOVIE!!! Do whatever you can to see it as soon as you can. I would give it an 11/10 if I could!!
Charlie Bartlett is a comedy film about Charlie, a rich kid who drops
out of a private high school and experiences culture shock after
enrolling into a public school. After being an outcast for a few days,
he gains popularity by setting up a dubious enterprise that distributes
medical drugs around the school. At the same time, he discovers that he
has an ability to counsel and give advice to other students. Their
problems include substance abuse, depression, and identity crisis. It
turns out that the adults also have problems of their own. Charlie soon
learns that things are not as simple as he originally expected.
The acting is the best aspect of the film. Anton Yelchin fits perfectly as Charlie. He has the ideal attitude and personality for the role. The gestures and facial expressions are spot on. This makes for an extremely likable and charismatic main character. For most of the film, Principal Gardner serves as Charlie's opposition. Robert Downy Jr. does a terrific job as Gardner, conveying a wide range of emotions that makes you truly sympathize him. The rest of the cast (mostly other students in the school) are likable in their own ways. Despite their personal flaws, you can see a change in most (although not all) of them throughout the film.
The plot has some good ideas in it. It carries some great messages about our personal and social lives. I would have liked to see some of the plot lines carried further. For example, the story surrounding Charlie's father is very artificial and felt like it was tagged on simply to make Charlie look more imperfect. With a little imagination, a whole lot more could have been done with it. Also, it felt like the conclusion did not implement all the ideas together.
The dialog and writing was a mixed result. Generally, it was good and even excelled at some moments. But there were other parts that seemed too over the top or plain silly. Granted, it was walking a thin line between comedy and drama, but it could have felt more realistic.
I hope I don't sound too critical, because I enjoyed Charlie Bartlett and would definitely watch it again. The characters were good and the plot was interesting. It has more substance than the usual comedy. If IMDb's voting scales were more incremented, it would perfectly fit in as a 7.5/10. A good comedy to start the year off, don't hesitate to check it out.
If no studio wants to invest in your film, it's because they know that
unless all the stars align with your project, they're not going to make
money. Well, the filmmakers here -- from the producers to the PA's --
obviously labored enough to force those stars into line, and make a
terrific film that is bound to bring box office returns.
As a filmmaker watching this film, what confused me at first was how, as the story begins, there seems to be no structure, but it still made me hang on every word. Like any good film, that structure remained invisible throughout the whole film; it was only in retrospect that I could see how well this journey was laid out for us to effortlessly enjoy ourselves with realistic comedy, absurdist comedy, genuine romance, genuine father/daughter struggles and a variety of questions we should be all be asking ourselves. No filmmaker-knows-all solutions here.
This has an R rating, because the MPAA is afraid that kids can't handle talk about teenage Ritalin use. Either we all embrace the neo-comic book code era http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6543/, or we have to convince the industry to ditch this mindless censorship club that attempts to protect our children from the new perspectives that they need more than ever.
Tell them what you think at www.mpaa.org/AboutUsContactUs.asp
I highly doubt many of those who are reading this are old enough to
remember the year 1986, or the theatrical release Ferris Bueller's Day
Off (John Hughes). Still, I trust that there are those of you have seen
the movie on TV, or DVD, or even on the prehistoric VHS. Well, the
small-budget, diamond in the dust movie of the year borrows heavily
from it, taking both old and new material and making it into something
fresh. This hidden gem is Charlie Bartlett.
Charlie Bartlett is the story of a young high school student with roots in royalty. Seemingly destined for a posh life, he constantly finds himself in situations involving expulsions due to fraud (hundreds of fake I.D.s given to schoolmates, for example). Soon, Charlie has been kicked out of nearly every private school within 100 miles of his house-mansion. With no alternatives left, Charlie quickly finds himself attending a public school with regular, everyday students. From here, he decides the only way to fit in is to become a lord of sorts, and begins handing out prescription drugs to those students truly in need with no way of getting them, while playing the role of psychiatrist. Of course, this bears consequences in the form of the principle And said principle's daughter.
An intelligent and witty movie, Charlie Bartlett is this generations Ferris Bueller. From the smooth, careless main character, to the parents being completely exaggerated in every manner, it all fits. The dialogue flows well and is witty throughout. Many teens will walk out thinking "That's not how teens talk!" Well, take it from a teen. There are those out there who would rather die than be seen writing out "Lyke Omg I luv ur new shoez!".
Now, the acting. Easily the best part of the movie, and also the weakest link. Up and coming actor Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog) plays the role perfectly, never missing a beat. He plays happy and carefree when he needs to, but the next second he's so smug you want to smack him. It's perfection in the form of a teen. And of course, we have Robert Downey Jr. (Zodiac, Iron Man) gracing the screen in the form of Principle Gardner. The chemistry between the two hits every note, and doesn't waver for a minute. But, where perfection is seen, flaws are even more defined. Next to the two leads, many of the actors filling in the smaller roles seem to almost be trying to match them. And it doesn't come off well, with over-acting filling many scenes. Still, do not let it perturb you, as the powerful presentations easily overshadow the lesser ones.
My only nitpick in the movie that really took anything out of the movie It was very obviously written by middle aged men trying to put themselves in the shoes of teens. In places it worked, but in others it came across as very forced and unrealistic. The school is very paint by the numbers. Let blue represent jocks, play out red as the airheaded cheerleaders and throw yellow in for the geeks, and you can paint a portrait of cliché.
All this being said, the movie has its up and downs. Depending on your mood, this movie could be for you. If you're looking for a smart movie with witty dialogue and good acting, and are willing to temporarily suspend everything you know of high school, this movies for you. Otherwise, for those more plot less, action oriented movie fans Well, there's always Jumper.
4 out of 5 stars
Charlie Bartlett is a good movie, nothing spectacular but it fulfilled my expectations very well. It is a very well written comedy with the perfect amount of drama. It is funny but not because its full of jokes or gags, the humor of this movie is a consequence of the situations in it. The plot about a wealthy teen (Yelchin) goes to a new public high school and ingratiates himself into its social fabric by using his charm to become the school's resident "psychiatrist" is good, its like a glimpse of how teenagers live nowadays. The cast composed entirely by young actors with the exception of Downey Jr. is good and they acted well. Robert Downey was good, Anton Yelchin in the role of Charlie, his performance was great. He was a excellent complement for Downey Jr. The rest of the cast like Kat Dennings and Hope Davis were a great support for the movie. In conclusion, this is an entertaining movie that is worthy just to watch Downey Jr. and Yelchin acting together.
If you're pining for a modern John Hughes type teen comedy (such as
Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller's Day Off), then Charlie Bartlett
would certainly fit the bill. It's like an anti-American Pie. The teens
are not obsessed with sex, it has heart and even a few dramatic
elements. It's not as funny as American Pie type movies but that's not
the point. Charlie Bartlett is basically a good-hearted very smart rich
kid expelled from all his previous private schools who wants to be
popular and becomes a kind of psychiatrist for his fellow classmates in
a "normal" public high school.
The actor portraying him did a remarkable job showing his eccentricities while keeping him likable and sweet despite his less than legal actions. I'm not quite sure how likely such a character would be in real life but he's certainly interesting. I also enjoyed the other teens portrayed (most being two-dimensional instead of one-dimensional caricatures) and wish there had been more washroom confessionals. Robert Downey Jr is once again wonderful as a loving father and tormented principal who's not completely "evil" as in most movies of this type. I liked the understated uncomplicated romantic aspect and it kind of made me wish for first love again although I've seen this done better in several other movies. Overall, it's a charming teen movie, not overtly real-life melodramatic, nor overtly over-the-top ridiculous, as we rarely see in this cynical 21st century. It's a good rental and a decent purchase if you like high school dramatic comedies.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The transitional age we all suffered through were our formative years, during High School. This is where you learn what you believe is wrong and what you didn't believed is even more wrong. It's at this very trying time, one learns in order to survive, one must adapt, ignore the obvious and embrace the impossible. This film called " Charlie Bartlett " deals with all those issues and more. It begins with young Charlie (Anton Yelchin) a teen who dreams of becoming the most popular boy in school. The reality is definitely the opposite. Although rich and spoiled by his dotting mother, Charlie who has caused so much trouble in private schools, has been transferred to public education. Here he begins by being out of place, out of step and out of touch. Between becoming a bully's (Murphey Bivens) daily punching bag and dreaming of popularity, his efforts only land him in the arms of a shrink who proscribes a plethora of pharmaceutical drugs. Realizing their true value with the student body, he not only starts selling drugs, but becomes a peer confident. The change of life brings many rewards, and growing popularity but unfortunately closer to the troubled Principal (Robert Downey Jr.) and his rebellious daughter (Kat Dennings). All the characters have issues and our hero makes use of his substantial gifts of persuasion. The movie is surprisingly interesting and should not be underrated. It's a fun film and one which holds the attention of multi generational audiences. Recommended to anyone with an open mind. ***
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the few teen comedies that actually works.
The script is fantastic and I loved the premise. Sure you can easily predict what will happen. The bully who becomes friends with the protagonist, the relationship with Charlie and the principal but it's still fun to watch. There are some illogical things in the plot such as how does he get time to talk to all the people in the bathroom during school. The effects of Ritalin were exaggerated but it was hilarious to watch.
The actors really do great jobs. Anton Yelchin, who plays Charlie, has a bright future ahead of him after see this. Kat Dennings plays her part right and Hope Davis is hilarious as the Charlie's quirky mother. Robert Downey Jr. adds another great performance to his resume as the alcoholic principal who just happens to be the father of Charlie's girlfriend. Another person I would add to this list is Tyler Hilton. He plays the bully who becomes friends with Charlie and I thought he did a really good job. If I had to pick two people who give the best performances it would have to be Anton Yelchin and Robert Downey Jr.
I really liked this movie and you should definitely check it out if you like teen comedies.
'Charlie Bartlett,' the story of a wealthy teen who bounces from posh
private school to normal public school, is one that should go down as a
requisite for all high school students to view.
Along with films like Ferris Bueller, Breakfast Club, Fast Times, and Dazed & Confused, 'Charlie Bartlett' shows a great (though sometimes exaggerated) view of high school life and the struggles that come with it.
Great performances by the lead ensemble and a fantastic job by first time director Jon Poll and first time writer Gustin Nash help to make this the best high school film of the decade.
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