Anton Yelchin gives a mature, nuanced performance in this teen comedy, executed with much precision and originality. Even if enough word-of-mouth won't keep it from reaching DVD shelves faster than you can say the title.
Charlie Bartlett has much attitude to burn, in a bracing way that puts it ahead of so many stereotypical high school scenarios put out by Hollywood.
Charlie (Yelchin) has a tendency to get kicked out of the best prep schools. So, he's remanded to a local high school by his opulent, medicated mother, Marilyn, blithely essayed by Hope Davis (The Hoax).
The sensible, hardly contrived script by Gustin Nash looks into the offshoot of the manner in which he connects with his fellow students. The trouble being a drug dispenser of sorts, running a psychiatric clinic in the lavatory.
The unattached Charlie becomes drawn to a strong-minded student, Susan, an attentive Kat Dennings (40-Year-Old Virgin). She just happens to be the daughter of the school's beleaguered principal, played effortlessly by Robert Downey, Jr. of Zodiac.
How the students use their wiles against the staff helps give the picture some zest, as director Jon Poll ably works in some rudefully risible scenes. Sharp-tongued dialogue helps provide an edgy mood, as Yelchin and Downey have a palpable rapport. One of the best moments comes as Charlie tries to find success on the stage.
The adults and kids are both flawed and a bit frayed as Charlie Bartlett charms from its means to challenge what it really means to be popular. And, how the protagonist and those around him act on it. Some may find the latter portion to get somewhat slushy, yet Poll and Nash invite the viewer to consider some serious issues. All the while Charlie has to deal with his father, a budding romance, and the principal's alcoholism.
Some older viewers may be reminded of Harold & Maude while more recent fare like Election and Rushmore may come to mind. Nevertheless, Yelchin's unforced portrayal and the production underlines an honest look to eschew being another teen movie. Ultimately, a blissful vision almost appears like an epiphany.