Saturday, February 23, 2008

Charlie Bartlett, Fred Rogers

You can read summaries/reviews at imdb, yahoo and rotten tomoatoes. I don't think the sexual encounter was really necessary, though it did add to the moral ambiguity/ambivalence of Charlie's character.

The film had some shortcomings, but the title character was truly likable if flawed. He befriended the social outcasts; he was generous and helpful. There was a poignant moment when Kat Dennings says something about being ditched by one parent and watching the other lose his mind -- leading to a not-very-good prognosis for their offspring. You can see Anton Yelchin’s character (Charlie) identifying with her.

I think what's appealing about this character is that he has the desire to help others. It's not entirely unselfish, but whose desires are?

Recently NPR aired an excerpt from Fred Rogers’s goodbye speech. I'm not sure if it was his last television appearance, but I found it on youtube, and wrote down what he said:
You know it happens so often, I walk down the street, and someone 20 or 30 or 40 years old will come up to me and say, "You are Mr. Rogers, aren't you?" And then they tell me about growing up with the neighborhood, and how they're passing on to the children they know what they found to be important in our television work, like expressing their feelings through music and art and dance and sports and drama and computers and writing, and... and invariably we end our little time together with a hug. I'm just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us. And I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead. But I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger: I like you just the way you are. And what's more, I'm so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you'll do everything you can to keep them safe and to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It's such a good feeling to know that we're lifelong friends.
Charlie Bartlett wanted to help those kids because of goodness in his heart, but also to a large extent because he wanted to be liked. "What's more important than that?" he asked the adults in his life. His mother couldn't answer. The principal, though, did: "What you do with that popularity," he said, was more important than just being popular....

Fred Rogers, on the other hand -- if you look at some other video clips there on youtube, or watch some of his shows -- Mr. Rogers was the genuine article.

I remember that he was on Prairie Home Companion once, and Garrison Keillor was plainly in awe of him -- or at least in deep respect. He could hardly believe it, he said, sharing the stage with Mr. Rogers. Keillor is a great entertainer -- we saw him a few months ago at the Marin Center -- he is absolutely brilliant in person.

But Fred Rogers is one of my heroes. Keillor is by comparison just an entertainer, and Charlie Bartlett just an okay movie.

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