Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Charlie Bartlett, or How "I'm as fit as a fucking fiddle" is my new "I drink your milkshake"

Charlie Bartlett
Jon Poll
Starring Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, Tyler Hiloton (he's hot AND he sings?!) and Robert Downey Jr.

Charlie Bartlett is a film that takes the expression 'dark comedy' to its extreme. For every lol/rotfl moment, there is an equally (gasp!) wtf (what the fuck?) *hand to mouth* moment. For every scene featuring a Ritalin-high skivvies-wearing Anton Yelchin, there is a drunk Robert-D gun-toting scene. For every 'people like you are the reason people like me need medication' t-shirt, there is a suicide attempt. You get the comedy and you get the dark. That it balances the two so organically (though less smoothly than one would wish) is one of the movie's highlights. It doesn't shy away from dry humour (see: every line delivered by Hope Davis) nor does it veer away from social issues (suicide? check. prescription drugs? check. peer pressure? check...) - and while some might say it is at once too grim and too optimistic, too satirical and too gritty, I think the fact that it knows that and works within that dichotomous framework works in its favour.
Compliments must be paid to young Yelchin who completely owns the role of Charlie (he sings! he dances! he fraternizes with bullies! he monologues!) and sells the movie. He's a lovable prick. And a rich one at that - those are the ones harder to love - but how can you not love someone who gets his driver to take him to a secluded area where a mentally handicapped student will play bouncer on the local bully so you can go all Godfather on him? Okay, so maybe Charlie's "heart of gold" is buried under years of psychiatric problems, family ordeals and fucked up-ness, but he's true to himself and after-school specials and saturday morning cartoons teach us that's important, so why should we deny a prescription drug dealer the role in 'role model'? Discuss. B+

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