Charlie Bartlett (2007) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A rich kid becomes the self-appointed psychiatrist to the student body of his new high school.

  • Although cheerful, friendly, intelligent, well-dressed, authentic and wealthy, Charlie Bartlett has problems. With his father gone and his mother loopy and clueless, he's been expelled from every private school for his victimless crimes. Now he's in a public school getting punched out daily by the school thug. He ever longs to be popular - the go-to guy - and the true crux of his troubles is that he invariably finds the means to this end, whatever that might be. At Western Summit High, he makes peace with his tormentor by going into business with him - listening to kids' problems and selling them prescription drugs. Charlie's a hit, but attraction to Susan (daughter of the school's laissez-faire principal), new security cameras on campus, a student's overdose, and Charlie's open world view all converge to get him in serious trouble. Can this self-made physician possibly heal himself and just be a kid?

  • From a wealthy family, Charlie Bartlett is a bright and privileged seventeen year old high schooler who has a recurring fantasy of being famous and idolized just for being who he is. He has been expelled from private school after private school for using his smarts in nefarious but still largely harmless ways. Part of his attitude issue may be attributed to his father no longer being a presence in his life. As throwing money at the issue will no longer fix the problem, Charlie's supportive mother Marilyn Bartlett, whose mellow attitude is largely medication induced, has no other option but to send Charlie to a public school, Western Summit High. Charlie's routine of wearing a blazer and carrying an attaché case do not fit in with public school life, he largely shunned or bullied, the latter primarily by the school's head thug, Murphy Bivens, with Charlie being only Murphy's latest target. Using his smarts, Charlie is eventually able to become the toast of the student body by pushing the right buttons first with Murphy, then with the majority of the student body based largely on an encounter with another student Kip Crombwell, who is chronically depressed and prone to panic attacks. However, the one person at the school who could always see through Charlie's veneer to the smart and clever person he is is Susan Gardner, who happens to be the daughter of the school's disliked principal, Nathan Gardner. That dislike of Mr. Gardner by the students is a Catch-22 situation as he gets more restrictive the more out of hand the students seem to get in his mind. Mr. Gardner has and is still facing his own demons in the process. Charlie's relationship with Susan may bring him to a standoff with her father, with movement on either side possibly based on if Charlie and/or Mr. Gardner can come to a true understanding of their own issues.

  • Finally kicked out of every private school, wealthy teenager Charlie Bartlett is failing miserably at fitting in at a public high school, run by world-weary Principal Nathan Gardner. As Charlie begins to better understand its social hierarchy, his honest charm and likability eases him into position as a resident "psychiatrist," dishing out advice and the occasional prescription drug with his former school tormentor/business partner (Murphy Bivens) to students in need. Along the way, he decides to take some of his own advice, find romance, and learn to accept who he is, thus wielding a witty dark comedy about the angst-filled years before college.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • 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 teenagers foray into bathroom-stall psychiatry becomes a smart, funny and touching one-man battle against the loneliness, angst and hypocrisy of the modern world.

    Anton Yelchin stars as Charlie Bartlett, who has been kicked out of every private school he ever attended. And now that he's moved on to public school, he's simply getting pummeled. But when Charlie discovers that the kids who surround him -- the outcast and the popular alike -- are secretly in desperate need, his entrepreneurial spirit takes over. Hanging up his shingle in the Boys' restroom, Charlie becomes an underground, not to mention under-aged, shrink who listens to the private confessions of his schoolmates, and makes the imprudent decision to hand out the pills he's proffered from his own psychiatric sessions. Meanwhile, at home, Charlie keeps charming his way out of an inevitable confrontation with his adoring but utterly overwhelmed mother Marilyn (Hope Davis.)

    Then, Charlie Bartlett makes his big mistake: falling in love with the beautiful and bold daughter (Kat Dennings) of the school's increasingly disenchanted Principal (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is hot on his trail. As Charlie Bartlett's world and fledgling psychiatric practice unravel, he begins to discover there's a whole lot more to making a difference than handing out pills.

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