The teenage rebel is such an iconic figure in cinema, one verging on cliche, you would think that smart filmmakers would steer clear at all costs. Fortunately, writer Gustin Nash and director Jon Poll, each making his feature debut, are perhaps too new to their jobs to be smart.
Consequently, we have a fresh, provocative, surprising take on this figure in "Charlie Bartlett." The film certainly hits the anticipated areas of teen angst, alienation, loneliness, disenchantment and drug use. But the makers maintain a comic touch, preferring keen observation and even irony to cynicism and despair.
Indeed, the film could be accused of being overly optimistic in the many neat resolutions of its characters' problems if it were not for the filmmakers' insistence in maintaining a veneer of fictional wish-fulfillment, a kind of wink to the audience that it would take an unlikely and sagacious teen like Charlie Bartlett to perform so many miracles. And even one of his miracles backfires badly and nearly tragically.
This whip-smart comedy was postponed from its original August slot for a Feb. 22 opening. For the film to score with audiences looking for a youth movie with savvy and sass, much will depend on the critical reception plus word-of-mouth.
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