Director: Jon Poll
Writer: Gustin Nash
Cinematographer: Paul Sarossy
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton
Studio/Run Time: MGM, 97 mins.
"Yeah I’m gonna kill myself
Get a little headline news
I’d like to see what the papers say
On the state of teenage blues."
Elton John “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself”
You gotta love teen angst in the cinema. From the rebellious '50s in Blackboard Jungle to Sean Penn’s slacker Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to the vapidity of Mean Girls, filmmakers have exploited screen teens. Now, in the surprisingly intelligent Charlie Bartlett, an attempt is made to cure the angst when former prep student Charlie (Anton Yelchin) practices psychiatry on his fellow students. Using a toilet stall as a make-shift confessional, Charlie hands out advice and prescription drugs in the men’s room. The drugs, however, are illicitly prescribed for Charlie. Principal Gardner (Robert Downey, Jr.) who hates his job and has his own dependency problems, seems more concerned with Charlie’s interest in his daughter than with his increasingly weak hold on the school.
Give director Jon Poll and screenwriter Gustin Nash credit for bringing comedic light to some heavy subjects such as the misuse of prescribed drugs and teen suicide. But at times the film’s credibility is stretched a little too far, even for a comedy. At one point the entire student body seems to incredulously say in unison, “Can’t we all just get along?” Even the school bully, hilariously played by Tyler Hilton, works to change his evil ways.
Yelchin is perfect as the clean cut Charlie who craves popularity and needs a little counseling of his own. His sweet dingbat of a mother, Hope Davis, gets some of the film’s best lines. And Downey Jr. playing an alcoholic principal lecturing on the dangers of drugs is one of those wonderfully ironic, Twilight Zone moments that only Hollywood can provide.