Charlie Bartlett is the best movie thus far year.
Melding the rebellious charm of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with the social commentary of The Graduate, Charlie Bartlett sneaks into the marketplace amidst a sea of particularly dismal first-quarter duds, following a series of postponed release dates. That’s probably a good thing for this film, though, since there’s less competition for an audience at the moment, and the time of year more closely fits with its manic-depressive tone than the originally planned early August debut.
Despite its unsubtle message about the unnecessary overmedication of today’s youth, Charlie Bartlett sets a higher bar for itself in attempting to present characters on both sides of the generation gap as realistically flawed human beings. The story centers on the titular character (Anton Yelchin), a rich and lonely high-school student who has been kicked out of a series of private schools, not for rowdy or anti-social behavior, but for more subversive schemes, like selling fake IDs. Charlie’s loving but slightly loopy mother (Hope Davis) doesn’t know what to do with him, and doesn’t seem to have the heart to discipline him, so she sends him to the only place left that will take him: public high school.
Unequipped and unprepared to deal with the social hazards that await him, Charlie shows up on his first day in full private-school mode, complete with embroidered jacket and tie. His attempts to be polite and friendly to everyone, even the special-ed kids, earn him a dunking in a toilet stall and eventually a beating from the school bully, Murphy (Tyler Hilton). Noticing Charlie’s emotional turmoil, his mother sends him to her psychiatrist, who promptly prescribes Ritalin as the answer to his problems.
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