Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Kat Dennings, Hope Davis
Marilyn: Well, maybe there’s more to high school than being well liked.
Charlie: Like what, specifically?
Marilyn: …Nothing comes to mind…
After being expelled from a private school, Charlie Bartlett (Yelchin) must adjust to life in a public school where he’s not accepted by the other students. He soon gains popularity by selling various medications to students while also playing the role of psychiatrist to many of them.
It’s hard not to compare this to the 1998 Wes Anderson movie, Rushmore. Both feature a well dressed high school student who daydreams of peer adoration, is expelled from a private school and has trouble fitting in at public school. Both protagonists seem overly mature for their age, both are involved in theatre, and both engage in a sort of battle with an older adult. The real difference is that Jason Schwartzman made Max Fischer a much more tolerable character than Anton Yelchin makes Charlie Bartlett. He grated on my nerves early and often.
Also missing is the creative and empathetic direction of Wes Anderson. A check of director John Poll’s IMDB profile reveals this to be only his second movie directed, and the first in 15 years. I felt very distant from the characters, and also grew tired of the same sets being used over and over. There’s way too much time spent in the bathroom stalls that Charlie uses for his therapy sessions.
As usual, Kat Dennings succeeds in creating an interesting performance, while Robert Downey Jr. just seems to be trying to skate on through the movie unharmed. It’s not that it’s a bad performance, it’s just that it seemed a little unfocused and uninspired. Actually, that’s a good description of the movie as a whole. Uninspired. Another good word would be unbelievable. I didn’t believe for a second that Charlie would become Mr. Popular, no matter how much medication he sold people. But it’s a movie high school, so I guess things like that are possible there.
There are a few funny moments, and a couple of nice scenes between Charlie and his mother, played by Hope Davis, but in the end, I just didn’t care about these characters enough to be interested in whatever life lessons they learn. Especially since I already saw a similar kid learn many of these lessons in a better movie, Rushmore.
Apparently therapists/psychiatrists are stupid. At least in whatever town Charlie Bartlett lives in.
10 – 3 for characters I mostly didn’t care about – 1.2 for some dull direction = 5.8