Monday, February 25, 2008

Charlie Bartlett

So, I saw the new, cool, R-rated teen comedy, Charlie Bartlett. And, well, I gotta say, I'm liking this whole "R-rated comedy craze" right now. You know, it all started that couple of summers ago with The 40 Year Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers, and it's moved into teen comedies like Superbad and now Charlie Bartlett. Obviously, those first R-rated comedies just used the rating as an excuse to show boobies (well, Wedding Crashers did, I don't really remember how 40 Year Old Virgin earned it's R-rating). Superbad used it as an excuse to throw out the f-word at least once per sentence. And to show lots and lots of pictures of penises. Charlie Bartlett just uses it as an excuse to show abusive drinking and underage smoking. Oh, and illegally providing prescription drugs...and purposely overdosing on them. But besides that, it's totally tame.

Now, that might seem like an odd thing to appreciate (I imagine you don't typically walk out of a comedy thinking to yourself, "man, that was really funny, but it really could have used more scenes of characters trying to hide from their problems by drinking large quantities of hard alcohol"). But, it happens that this was something I really missed in I Am Legend (that classic comedy from this past December). By the end of the movie, Will Smith is basically bat-shit crazy (but can't really even comprehend it) and it would work a lot better if he just passed out each evening to hide from the outside world (instead of holding his dog while hiding in a bathtub). But, obviously, that's neither here, nor there.

Anyways, I liked Charlie Bartlett. He was a downright cool dude. If I knew him, I would want to be around him. So, he definitely wins lots of points that Juno never got (I wouldn't have especially wanted to hang out with Juno, although I probably wouldn't have minded calling her a friend). Charlie just wants to be loved. Preferably by everyone. In fact, let's be honest here, he won't settle for anything less. And, I gotta admit, that's pretty admirable. I know I've never shot for being loved by everyone. In all honesty, my typical goal is somewhere between fondly (if only vaguely) remembered and good old-fashioned forgotten. Love just isn't in the cards for me. But, well, I'm no Charlie Bartlett.

Surprisingly, I don't think he was my favorite character, though. That award kind of has to go to Robert Downey Jr.'s Principal Gardner. Now, that is one depressing dude (he would be the alcohol abuser in the movie). His pretty daughter is basically throwing herself at his newest problem (that would be Charlie), the kids at his school neither respect him or even like him, and well, yeah that's his life.

I love that he gets to redeem himself (because he absolutely deserves redemption). More importantly, I love that he gets to realize that he never needed redemption. That he was a good guy, who had simply gotten overwhelmed. I love that in the scene where he gets fired from his gig as principal, he's barely even aware. All he can see is that his daughter is crying because he had Charlie arrested. That she's really pissed at him and that, now in both their minds, he's betrayed her.

And I love that he retreats to the alcohol. Even more than that, I love that when he and Charlie sit down and talk about it, we realize that he's already started feeling better. He's becoming the guy he wanted to be again. And when Charlie makes him realize that his daughter still loves him, everything is okay again. None of that other stuff actually mattered, since he hasn't lost his daughter. I like that. That's touching.

Again and again, though, I'm always amazed at the fantasy that teen movies create involving adults. Charlie Bartlett (the movie, not the character) does not contain an adult who is either responsible or particularly intelligent (except maybe the principal, and he's an alcoholic...which probably disqualifies him from being responsible). Charlie gets away with everything he does, right in front of the adults. They're just clueless and he's clever. I find that a little depressing. Eventually, all the kids look up to Charlie because he's the only one who's actually been able to provide answers.

Typically, these movie utilize this fantasy by just making the adults oblivious to the world that their children live in (and there are numerous scenes in this movie condemning that attitude). But, in this movie, most of the adults want to be in their children's lives, they're just too caught up in their own problems to know how.

And the result is that the kids are unhappy and confused and desperate for guidance that nobody is giving. It feels like so many of the kids have similar stories involving their parents simply becoming pulled away by life. But, I guess that's probably closer to reality than the parents being oblivious.

But, so, yeah, it was good. Charlie was a cool character. And I was proud of him for living his dream. I like just how much his character got to grow. I loved that he got up in front of all these people who loved him, just like he'd imagined, and he didn't bask in it. He realized just how scary it was and started begging them to stop, to realize that they didn't need him. To realize that he wasn't qualified for the job they'd given him.

That was something beautiful to me (because, during the opening dream sequence of him standing in front of a loving crowd, I had thought some very similar things, and it was nice to see that the writer's and I shared those feelings).

In short, I would recommend it to just about anyone. It's not presenting reality (that was a pretty nice public school and the whole idea of a student lounge is pretty much foreign to me, so I imagine it must be foreign to everyone), but it's talking about reality, and that's probably more important. Oh, and it's pretty funny too. And, yeah, the girl is cute, I'll give her that. Especially when she's sporting the semi-goth look early on.

That is all.


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