Sunday, March 02, 2008

Movie Review: Charlie Bartlett - ****

Charlie Bartlett is a film without a traditional audience. More than one critic has compared this film to Harold and Maude, a minor classic. Like Harold and Maude, Charlie Bartlett is destined to become a cult favorite.

This is a movie about high school, teenagers, drugs, and sorting all of that out. It is not a forgettable Hollywood tits and ass movie. Nor is it a glossy production. The film's soundtrack is understated, sublime, and at times will remind you of films like Billy Jack for raw substance.

Charlie Bartlett, the main character is played by Anton Yelchin. Bartlett is a 17 year old who has been kicked out of every private school he's enrolled in and has to attend public school. There he reinvents himself as the school's confessor and pharmacologist. Bartlett transforms the boys rest room into a teen psychiatrist's office and the scenes of fellow students describing their anxieties, one stall to another will remind film buffs of Paris, Texas, another film that explored the confessional metaphor.

This is a film that teems with mature and sophisticated themes rarely explored in teen films - the idea that teens are incomplete - "just kids", that parents make the mistake of treating children like adults too soon thus robbing the child of childhood, and that a nation drowning in pharmacological solutions is nonetheless drowning.

Robert Downey Jr (whose role is all the more compelling because of his personal history), Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, and a wonderful supporting cast all give fine performances that contribute to a story that is not predictable nor disappointing.

The small audience that attended our viewing genuinely appreciated the subtle humor and empathized with the characters all of whom were worth caring about.

This film is getting very limited exposure and the reviews are mixed but for those who enjoy offbeat, intelligent, and memorable cult classics, this is the real deal.

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