Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Charlie Bartlett" - movie review

I love Hollywood blockbusters and big event movies and special effects and star actors and directors. But I also love small gems of pictures. This is definitely one of them. I think the last time I thought a picture was absolutely perfect was when I saw "Glory". After seeing this movie, I walked out of the theatre with absolutely nothing that I thought was wrong with it.

Charlie Bartlett is a child of privilege who nonetheless has been expelled from numerous private schools, so he lands in a public school. Like every other kid in high school, he has a hard time fitting in at first, until he inadvertently finds a niche - as informal counselor to the other lost kids in the school. His popularity rises, and he starts to gain the recognition and acceptance that he's always longed for, but a near-tragedy almost puts that to an end. He finds that as much as he enjoys helping others, there are some more personal matters that he needs to attend to.

I heard about this movie when I was listening to Ralph Garman's movie beat on KROQ. He gave a short description of the movie, and it sounded pretty quirky and kind of interesting. It was an absolutely amazing movie, but in a quiet kind of way. The story had beats that have been done before, but it wasn't the beats themselves that were good - it was the execution of the beats. And even though the gist of the story is about high school angst, I think the film serves to remind us what our high school years might have been like in trying to fit it and finding a place for yourself, but it also translates well into other aspects of life, whether it's work or any kind of social situation.

Anton Yelchin is spectacular as the lead character. He has an air of sincerity about him so that even in somewhat odd circumstances, you completely believe everything he's doing and saying. There are a couple of scenes where he really has to let go, with different emotions, and he's terrific. I'm not really familiar with him from his previous work, but he was in an episode of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent", so I probably saw him in that. He's about to get much more exposure, though, as he will be playing Pavel Chekov in the next "Star Trek" movie, appropriate enough as he was born in Russia.

Robert Downey Jr. plays the principal of the high school Charlie attends, and my first thought was how odd it was that he's progressed to the point of playing a principal. But he doesn't play your standard-fare stuffy principal. He does a good job in the movie, and he has a spectacular scene when Principal Gardner and Charlie are on the deck above Gardner's pool.

Kat Dennings plays Susan, a girl who befriends Charlie, and for some reason, she catches your attention the first time she appears onscreen, just as she's having the same effect on Charlie. She's also very good in this film, giving Susan a lot of depth.

Tyler Hilton plays Murphey, the resident school bully. I first became aware of Tyler Hilton because I was listening to Mark and Brian, who have a syndicated radio show broadcast out of Los Angeles. At 16, he was a musician who had called into their show, and they were so impressed by him that they had him perform at one of their events, and he gained recognition from there. He did work on his music more, and then he started acting. Some may know him from the series "One Tree Hill". I didn't particularly follow him, but I thought he was good playing Elvis Presley in "Walk the Line". He is absolutely wonderful in this film. He plays a range that's pretty impressive, and based on his performance in this film, I can see his acting career continue to blossom.

I don't know how much publicity is being done for this film. I hadn't heard about it prior to Ralph mentioning it, but I hope more people find out about it. It's definitely something I'd recommend heartily. My only concern having to do with the film is that it was released two days before this year's Academy Awards. I can definitely see this film being a contender next year, but the Academy members are going to have to be reminded of this film come nomination time.

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