What’s not to like about Anton Yelchin? I see him and I think of his dead ringer portrayal of Chekov in J.J. Abrams sensational reboot of “Star Trek”. I remember – albeit vaguely – hearing about “Charlie Bartlett” some time ago and its plot was loosely focused around a high schooler that becomes a psychiatrist for his classmates. That’s all I remembered about it, honestly. Then I happen to run across it the other night and I saw that Robert Downey Jr. was also in it. (As many of you readers know, I am HUGE fan of RDJ.) So without hesitation, I plunged right into watching this little indie comedy.
Allow me to say that sometimes, a film can have great actors cast and a great story to go right along with it and it needs very little else. That’s what “Charlie Bartlett” is like. In this way, it reminds me of “Donnie Darko”. Some films just don’t need much else because they’re that good. With RDJ as a high school principal – and a stressed out & drinking single father – the pieces are already in place. Good concept, great actor – need anything else? Yes! You need a decent lead to carry off the wonderful role written for the titular character. In this case, you get that in Anton Yelchin.
This kid has talent and diversity and is really enjoyable to watch on screen. He reminds me of…well, a young RDJ in a way. I would pay close attention to his career and see where it goes from here. (He and Keir Gilchrist from “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” are two up & coming talents that will be worth watching.) There’s a sort of manic energy he has on screen and he is totally unafraid to “go for it”. I don’t know if that’s exactly the right phrase for what I am trying to explain, but I think it works. Anyway, there’s a lot to like in his performance in this film. He’s charming in a sort of quirky manner, and combined with his manic expressions, it makes for a lot of fun to watch.
If “Charlie Bartlett” has a down side, it is Kat Dennings who plays the romantic interest in the film. She’s not particularly captivating enough to hold your interest in the film. There are moments when you glimpse some real acting talent, but those moments are short-lived. The character was written well, but I was left wondering if it had been someone with more of a powerful presence on screen, then this movie would have been hailed as a truly great film. Her performance wasn’t horrible, but Kat lacked any real chemistry with Anton and that didn’t help matters any.
The story has this delightful character at its core and without question that is what carries the film. The support of many of the other actors and characters helped the film go even further to wrapping you up in this tale. They really were pretty amazing. It’s just a really kind of compelling story told from an exceptional teenager’s perspective, and I thought it was really well done.
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.