The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday December 2nd

'Charlie Bartlett' hits the shallow end

Charlie Bartlett is just your average super-rich kid who decides to sell prescription drugs to his fellow students in order to be popular. And in an age in which Ritalin is as accessible as Skittles, there are plenty of laughs to be had watching Charlie scam every local psychiatrist into prescribing him medications to help everything from OCD to depression. Charlie then holds impromptu therapy sessions at school in which he analyzes the psychological condition and sells the appropriate drug to the student. The film flirts with a solid satire of high school angst, but some of the themes of depression, alcoholism and drug overdose lack the emotional distance to be funny, while also lacking the attention to be serious. As the students pour their hearts out in Charlie's "office," the boys' bathroom, Charlie never really impresses with his advice. He is supposedly developing into a caring and empathetic character, but his evaluations of his peers' problems don't extend far beyond setting up unlikely couples. Anton Yelchin, in the titular role, fits the part of the awkward misfit, with his scrawny frame and calculated gestures. But when the scenes call for depth, Yelchin barely scrapes the surface. If the film had gone with a more developed actor, maybe "Little Miss Sunshine"'s Paul Dano, for example, it's fun to wonder if "Charlie Bartlett" would have achieved more of the profundity it was searching for. While the plot and Yelchin are problematic, the rest of the cast is a real upper. Robert Downey Jr. is often hilarious as the burned-out principal and father to Charlie's love interest, Susan (Kat Dennings). His sarcastic and disinterested handlings of the mischief around his school are funny and reminiscent of real life school administrators. He finds a good balance between the apathetic administrator and the concerned father, even when his character's actions seemed contrived. Hope Davis is perfect as Charlie's subdued mother who keeps the family psychiatrist on call if any unevenness of temperament should arise. "Charlie Bartlett" has good acting and several laughs, but when it comes to deeper meaning, as Freud says, the cigar is just a cigar. Contact the Diversions Editor at


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