These days, it's rare to find an R-rated teenage comedy that doesn't bombard you with tons of gratuitous nudity, raunchy foul language and a couple of characters who will go to great lengths just to get laid. While some might consider that a bad thing, I happen to find it quite refreshing. Due out in theaters this August, Charlie Bartlett enjoyed its world premiere this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's a film that carries a heavy message about the mis-use of prescription medication amongst today's teens, but does so in a very clever (and fun) way. You'd have to be living in a cave to not be aware of some of the issues currently circling the halls of our high schools. We live in a society where it's easier to hand a child medication then it is to sit down at the dinner table and have a conversation. A lot of parents are too busy, too self-absorbed to really talk to their kids. Thus, when something goes wrong, they've been trained to go to a professional. Johnny's having a hard time paying attention in class? Okay, well here's some Ritalin. Mary's been crying a lot in her room? Fine, give her some Zoloft. Zack can't sleep at night? Wonderful, try a bunch of this Xanax.
It's not that these pills are wrong; some of them actually do help kids remain healthy in a world that's evolving faster than you can text your vote to American Idol. The real problem lies with those who use these medications for recreational purposes. When I was in college, kids would take three pills of Ritalin, chop them up and snort them. And no, they weren't prescribed the pills -- they bought them from the kid who would rather make a few bucks than take some crummy pill he didn't feel he needed in the first place. Enter: Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin); a smart, sharp-looking kid who's been kicked out of every private school he's attended for scheming his way into the pockets of his fellow students. When we first meet him, he's getting the boot from yet another school because, this time, he's found a way to create near-perfect fake I.D.s. With nowhere else to send him, his filthy rich (and heavily medicated) mother (Hope Davis) decides it's time to enroll Charlie in public school. And while it takes some time for Charlie's suit-and-tie attitude to rub off on his peers, it's not long before this modern-day Ferris Bueller finds the attention he so desperately craves.