I saw a preview for Charlie Bartlett years ago and wasn’t really sure what to think of it. Like most previews, I didn’t actively chase after it and soon forgot about it. Years later, I see the cover and go…OH YEAH. Surprised at the actors involved too, since this thing came out in 2007, at least a year before most of these people got big (or got big..again).
I think we all know who I am talking about here.
Charlie Bartlett is played by Anton Yelchin, who didn’t make it super big yet with Star Trek / The Beaver / Fright Night. He is a rich kid, but his mom is depressed and his dad is in jail for tax evasion. He also keeps getting kicked out of private schools for some reason or another.
But now, he is going to public school. Not only that, but going to a school where Robert Downey Jr. is the principal (Not yet re-famous from Tropic Thunder / Iron Man / Sherlock Holmes ). He has problems making friends, except for one mentally challenged boy he rides the bus with. In fact the school bully Murphy (Tyler Hilton who was in…uhh nothing. Okay he isn’t too big…yet?) already kicked his ass.
But once Charlie realizes he could probably make money and some cash by selling people his extra pills that his psychiatrist has given him, he convinces Murph to team up with him and set up shop in the Boys bathroom. He becomes a psychiatrist himself. Afterall, he has been to enough his whole life, so he feels like he knows what should be said. If they need help, he goes to a new psychiatrist and takes on their problems to get different pill subscriptions. Needless to say, this makes him quite popular. So much that Susan (Kat Dennings, not yet in Thor / Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist / 2 Broke Girls ), the rebellious principals daughter, gets to liking him too.
But a drug ring in this school, that already has sketch privacy issues in the first place, and dating Susan? RBJ does not like this, and plans to expel Charlie once he catches him doing…something bad.
While the whole time, Charlie is only doing this stuff to try and fit in and make friends, not planning on becoming an activist leader for student rights, or rocking the boat too much. After all, he is just a kid.
Who will listen to your problems like a Priest. Kind of.
Turns out I should have watched this film earlier, because it was a very enjoyable experience. The plot felt loose the whole movie, yet it flowed naturally. The acting from the main two was top notch, and touching at times. I wasn’t ever sure if Charlie was being very manipulative, or actually unaware of the effects he was having on the lives of others. One of the final scenes, between Yelchin and RDJ was very powerful and awesome at the same time. Didn’t even rely on special effects or action, just the talking felt completely real, making it great.
The movie was definitely funny when it needed to be and serious when it mattered the most. Parts felt forced, sure, which caused some of my “is he manipulative or not?” confusion, but really at the end, he was just a kid who wanted to fit in for once.