I think I need to start a new category for some of my movie posts. I could call it Movies I’d Never Even Heard Of. I probably won’t, mind you, but if I did, CHARLIE BARTLETT would certainly fit into that category. I didn’t know anything about it, but it turned out to be a really good film, especially for one that I didn’t know existed.
Charlie Bartlett is a 17-year-old with an extremely wealthy and extremely ditsy mother and an absent father. The father’s absence plays into the plot later on, so I won’t say anything more about that. Charlie has just been expelled from an exclusive private boarding school for making phony driver’s licenses in his dorm room and selling them, and his mother decides that he should go to public school. This turns out to be a terrible idea at first, because the preppy, eccentric Charlie doesn’t fit in at all in today’s rough-and-tumble high school.
But things start to improve. Charlie falls in with the school’s drama club (especially the principal’s pretty daughter) and figures out a novel way to keep the school bully from beating him up. Soon he’s back to his old ways, acting as unofficial psychiatrist to his classmates (Charlie has been in therapy all his life, it seems, and knows a lot about such things) and prescribing medication that he scams out of his own psychiatrist. And he’s making money hand over fist at it, of course.
Up to this point, the movie has been pretty much a comedy, and a good one, too. But then it begins to take some serious, darker turns, and it also does that very well before finally coming to a satisfying conclusion. Anton Yelchin, an actor I hadn’t heard of, plays Charlie and does a great job. Kat Dennings, from NICK AND NORA’S INFINITE PLAYLIST, is good as the principal’s daughter, and the principal himself is played by Robert Downey Jr., who as usual is fine in a role that’s about as far as you can get from the buffoonish high school principal who usually shows up in movies like this. CHARLIE BARTLETT is full of unexpected twists and character developments and some surprisingly sweet moments, and I’m glad we happened across it. If you haven’t seen it, or even heard of it until now, like me, I highly recommend it.