Thursday, June 3, 2010
Hidden Gems: Charlie Bartlett
Move over Dear Abby, there's a new kid in town and he's got meds. Some people just need some advice, and the title character in Charlie Bartlett knows how to give it.
The film is about a teenage boy named Charlie Bartlett, played to modern day Ferris Bueller perfection by Anton Yelchin (Ensign Chekov in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek). Bartlett has spent his entire life in private school after private school, always getting kicked out. Finally, Bartlett has no more private schools to go to and is stuck in the middle of the public school system, where surprise, this rich guy doesn't fit in. But luck turns round for Bartlett when his mother makes him see the family psychologist, and he decides to take this experience, and the meds he gets from his shrink, to be the top secret school psychologist at his new high school, skyrocketing himself to super popular status.
If anything, it's a modern day Ferris Bueller-John Hughes type of film. It's witty, funny, and totally unbelievable in the John Hughes fashion. While the film is a touch more crude in its humor, and deals a lot with the drug situation in many high schools, it's a very easy comparison to make between this film and something like Ferris Bueller. Both are about high school legends who are wise beyond their years and know how to play the system to satisfaction. I laughed an awful lot at this movie, and I was actually surprised at the emotional depths that the film plunges to in its third act as well, while still retaining a comedic touch throughout.
Kat Dennings is charming as Bartlett's girlfriend, Susan Gardner, who is the daughter of quite possibly the best school principal aside from Mr. Rooney himself, Mr. Gardner, played by "it" actor Robert Downey, Jr. Downey manages to shrug off his Iron Man persona and actually act like a man his age is supposed to act. He's actually more of a straight man in this film than just about anyone else, and maybe that's why I was impressed by the performance. Still, the real star is Yelchin as Bartlett. He completed the package, and seriously, this kid has way more talent and comedic chops than Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, or any of those younger comedians have combined.
So I'll definitely say that this film is well worth your time. Not in many films can the whole school dance get high on Ritalin. While the film makes some, almost, not too subtle comments about youth drug use, it actually has a message beneath its exterior, that whether it gets through to the kids watching it, I don't know, but hey, it's there if you want it. Bottom line, Charlie Bartlett is a hilarious movie, that has some actual weight to it, and has a surprisingly genuine heart to go along with it.