Friday, May 22, 2009

CHARLIE BARTLETT - This Charming Man

CHARLIE BARTLETT is a charming and quirky teen comedy directed by sometime editor Jon Poll and written by debut feature writer Gustin Nash. It's a classic tale of teen fantasy - the class loser finds popularity by turning his disadvantages to his advantage. In this case, he dispenses advice and sells on the psycho-ceuticals prescribed to him by the many therapists his rich, troubled mother engages for him.

The film has a major flaw, and that is its unevenness of tone. On the one hand, it has a real sense of style, a quirky score, brutally funny one-liners and a healthy dollop of teenage wish fulfillment. But dispensing narcs to mentally sick kids is a serious business, and whenever the movie tries to grapple with that, it doesn't have the courage to follow it through and slips back into offbeat charm.

For all that, CHARLIE BARTLETT is definitely worth watching for Anton Yelchin's central performance as the troubled teen and Hope Davis' gloriously camp performance as his mother. Yelchin has real charisma in this film and displays great comic timing. (It's a shame he wasn't allowed to move beyond a stereotypical accent in his recent turn as Chekov in the new STAR TREK film.) Moreover, as in all the best teen fantasy movies, Charlie's troubles contain a grain of truth. Anyone who has irresponsible parents knows what it's like to act out and push for some boundaries.

CHARLIE BARTLETT played Tribeca 2007 and was released in 2008 in Canada, the US, Turkey, Singapore, Croatia, Australia, Russia, the UK, Italy, Germany, India, South Korea, Austria, Israel, Iceland and Mexico. It was released earlier this year in Japan and is available on DVD and on iTunes.

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