Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) just wants to be popular. After all, if that's not the point of High School, what is? Unfortunately, his attempts at popularity haven't succeeded in the past, and he's just been kicked out of yet another boarding school. What's a guy to do? Why, go to public school, of course!
Between taking care of his depressed, alcoholic mother and getting his head flushed down the toilet, Charlie's first day isn't much to brag about. So he visits the therapist his family keeps on retainer, who promptly diagnoses him with ADD. Only one problem — Charlie doesn't have ADD. And Ritalin acts rather like speed. After one crazy, drug-fueled night, Charlie hits on a new premise. He can sell the drugs, teaming up with the school bully and founding a business in the process. But Charlie doesn't stop at selling the drugs. He opens up his own psychiatric practice, operating out of the school's bathroom.
The directorial debut of veteran editor Jon Poll, with a supporting cast including Robert Downey Jr., Kat Dennings, Hope Davis, and Tyler Hilton, this 2007 film is not quite a comedy, and doesn't flinch at examining the consequences of Charlie's actions, many of which are unpleasant.
This film provides examples of:
- Acquired Situational Narcissism: Averted by Charlie.
- Alcoholic Parent: Principal Gardner.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!
- Big Man on Campus: Charlie wants to (and does) become this.
- Boarding School: Charlie's been kicked out of several.
- Chekhov's Gun: Literally.
- Coming of Age Story
- Dean Bitterman: Principal Nathan Gardner, Charlie's nemesis and Susan's father.
- Delinquents: Charlie himself, as well as the school bully and his eventual business partner.
- Driven to Suicide: Kip, the unpopular kid who Charlie prescribed antidepressants to, attempts suicide, likely as a side effect of the medication.
- Drugs Are Bad: The movie’s not particularly anvilicious about it, but does make the message. Particularly with one character's attempted suicide because of the antidepressant Charlie gave him.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Charlie is almost killed by Principal Gardner, an alcoholic who just lost his job with the school. But no worries. Gardner ends up saving Charlie from drowning, redeeming himself and returning to teaching, which is what he wanted in the first place. And Charlie gets to internship (probably) with a real psychiatrist.
- Eating Lunch Alone: Rather than face this prospect, Charlie sits down across from someone with whom he rides the bus.
- Fun T-Shirt: Charlie wears several. See the top of the page.
- High-School Hustler: Charlie is one, although the film is something of a subversion as his actions have serious consequences that he has to deal with.
- Improbably Cool Car: A Mercedes 600 Grosser in daily use as a chauffeured vehicle by people who aren't particularly car enthusiasts.
- Karma Houdini: Charlie, thanks to a lack of evidence.
- Love Interest: Susan, to Charlie. She happens to be Principal Gardner's daughter.
- Mood Whiplash: The party scene where Charlie gleefully tells a large crowd that he's no longer a virgin is immediately followed by Kip's attempted suicide.
- Must Have Nicotine: Susan
- Never Trust a Trailer: Advertised as a comedy a la Ferris Bueller. It's not quite.
- New Transfer Student: Charlie, complete with wearing his old school's uniform despite attending a public school with no dress code.
- Off the Wagon: Principal Gardner had a problem with alcohol in the past. It comes back.
- Parental Abandonment: Charlie's father (who's in prison). Susan's mother (who ditched her family for an affair).
- Protagonist Title
- School Uniforms are the New Black: Charlie's rarely seen outside of his boarding school jacket.
- School Play
- Sex as Rite-of-Passage:"Ladies and gentlemen—I'm no longer a virgin!"
- Transfer Student Uniforms
- Twerp Sweating: Played with. Principal Gardner, after revealing to Charlie that Susan is his daughter, assures him he is not the type of father who does this. He then proceeds to tell him exactly what he would say to him if he were.
- Young Conqueror
- You Are Grounded!