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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Charlie Bartlett

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Anton Yelchin and Kat Dennings moon over each other in the shithouse | Photo courtesy of MGM

Charlie Bartlett is the hardest type of film to review because even though it misses, it doesn't miss by terribly much. After watching it and thinking about it for awhile, I kept returning to an Australian movie I saw last summer, Introducing the Dwights. Like Charlie Bartlett it was a film built on a curio of a script and some fiercely memorable performances (I'm still thinking about Emma Booth), but also like Charlie Bartlett it failed as a film because it ultimately made some narrative decisions that crippled it.

The worst choice made in Charlie Bartlett--the choice that kills it--is the timid way in which it treats its potentially dark and rich subject matter. A wealthy, slightly unbalanced kid turning his fellow students on to the wonders of pharmacology all while schtupping the principal's loopy daughter is a great premise. Indeed, Charlie Bartlett as envisioned by a provocateur like Larry Clark would have been a searing and unnerving film. In its current state, though--almost yearning to be liked--it's just too limp and wan.