“Charlie Bartlett” (Sidney Kimmel Entertainment), a comedy which premieres in theaters Feb. 22, is the story of a charming 17-year-old played by Anton Yelchin. Charlie’s likeable and caring nature procures his role as the unofficial school “psychiatrist,” who sets up office in the boys’ bathroom.
Jon Poll (film editor for “Meet the Fockers” and “Scary Movie 3”) directs this film, for which he described Charlie’s character in an interview as a “modern day Holden Caulfield.” Charlie, despite being an exceptionally intelligent kid, has been kicked out of numerous private schools and attends public school as a last resort.
The movie is surprisingly accurate in its portrayal of teenagers, as Poll explained that he hoped to expose teenagers as “just as smart as other people” who have to “go through a lot of crap.” John Poll’s accuracy is also explained by the fact that he chose a cast of teenagers instead of relying on actors in their late 20s to depict seniors in high school.
The script for “Charlie Bartlett” was much darker when he first got a hold of it, Poll said. At one point in the interview he stated emphatically that he hoped to make the movie “honest and optimistic,” with characters that gave a “sense of hope.”
Charlie Bartlett is a complicated character, as he does not seem to relate to “normal” kids his own age. He wears a suit to his first day of class, carries his books in a briefcase, and has a chauffeur who drives a 1969 Mercedes Benz limo. Charlie had to grow up fast, as his father is in prison for tax evasion and his mother is more of a friend than a parent who takes her anti-depression medication with wine in the morning.
Throughout much of the film, Charlie’s main concern in high school is trying to fit-in and be popular. The only outlet he finds for this is to sell prescription drugs to his fellow students, which he obtains from his family’s on-call therapist. Some of his clients include; the depressed misfit, the school rebel who thinks he may be gay, and the popular girl who is having sex with the entire football team.
Poll said that, “To some extent, all kids in high school want to be popular.” In one scene in the movie, Charlie’s mother tell him, “There is more to high school than being well liked,” to which Charlie replies, “Like what specifically?”
Poll successfully reveals teenagers’ insecurities through honest scenes that are artfully mixed-in with a wry sense of comedy. When one of Charlie’s “patients” overdoses on the medication he provided for him, Charlie defends himself to the principal by saying, “I’m helping these kids – nobody else is helping them.”
Indeed, Charlie is a character with good intentions that often go awry, and the end, he realizes that he is just a kid who needs just as much saving as his peers.
Charlie Bartlett, directed by Jon Poll and starring Anton Yelchin, is in in theaters now.
This article appeared in the February 14, 2008 issue of the Hatchet.