If you think psychiatrists are latter-day snake-oil salesmen peddling prescriptions for everything that ails us, you’ll love how “Charlie Bartlett” skewers our drug culture
Charlie Bartlett is wearing a t-shirt that says: “People like you are the reason people like me need medication.” Charlie Bartlett is the irrepressible and cleverly manipulative title character of a new Hollywood comedy in which 17-year-old Charlie – just to achieve the popularity he craves – plays therapist to his classmates and hands out enough psych drugs to keep the average drug rehab center busy for a year.
Charlie, played brilliantly by Anton Yelchin (“Alpha Dog”), wants to be popular no matter what it takes. And he achieves his goal after realizing no one is paying any attention to his neuroses-riddled classmates, and that he possesses a unique gift for listening. Charlie sets up a therapy center in his high school men’s room, where he dispenses positive advice that actually helps the grateful kids, along with a veritable pharmacopeia of mood-altering drugs slyly cadged by faking symptoms to his wealthy family’s on-call psychiatrists. These witless shrinks are only too willing to prescribe Ritalin, Xanax, Zoloft and all the rest of their chemical solutions for Charlie’s faux problems.
But Charlie’s preposterous lavatory therapy and pharmaceutical dispensary is not what this film is all about. “Charlie Bartlett” the movie is about making it in life in spite of the shrinks and their wacko psychobabble and buckets of drugs. For those with the eyes to see, the movie satirizes, even skewers, the religion of psychiatry and its holy sacraments – an infinite number of mood-altering psychotropic drugs and endless litany of labels for every little complaint for which a drug is the ultimate salvation.
America’s real drug problem, the movie says, starts with a generalized failure to just shut up and listen to each other – especially to our kids – and ends by drowning in a tsuname of prescription drugs. And it’s right on the money. Casualties of prescription drugs are overflowing drug detox and drug rehab facilities across the country with victims of all ages, having spread like cancer to the drugging of our children. Written by Gustin Nash, a psychiatrist’s son who should know what’s going on, “Charlie Bartlett” doesn’t preach about this deplorable situation. It just shows it to us in spades with surprising eloquence and humor.
But the real surprise to me is how reviewers from some of the biggest publications just missed the point completely. It’s being reviewed like “Rushmore” or “Ferris Bueller” or any other teen comedy. Either the reviewers are just clueless or they’re all a bunch of Prozac-poppers themselves who choose to ignore the horrendous problem we’re creating by shoveling drugs into our kids. If we don’t wake up from this nightmare pretty soon and start listening to our kids, “Charlie Bartlett” suggests, we’re condemning a whole generation of Americans to lives lost in chemical dependence, substance abuse and the endlessly revolving doors of one drug rehab program after another.
Image sources:Anton Yelchin, Charlie Bartlett, drugs, movie review, prescription drug addiction, prescription drugs, substance abuse