Produced years ago, The Education of Charlie Banks only just saw the light day in 2009 with a limited, three theaters theatrical run March. Running a scant two weeks, not many saw this directorial debut by Fred Durst…much to the dismay of nearly everyone involved. The character driven film connected with audiences and critiques (those who saw it) for the most part, although many criticized the film for being an uneven clump of sequences strung together. Whatever the individual feelings were, the general consensus was that this was a well acted and strong debut for Durst, who has since gone on to direct a film with Ice Cube…that didn’t fare well at all (with anyone).
Charlie Bank’s sheltered world at his Ivy League campus is shaken when Mick, an old acquaintance with a violent past, unexpectedly shows up at his dorm room. Intrigued by Charlie’s privileged lifestyle, the charismatic Mick quickly wins over Charlie’s friends and his crush, Mary, as he seamlessly integrates himself into Charlie’s life. Unnerved yet also in awe of Mick’s easy charm, Charlie’s unresolved feelings of jealousy, admiration and fear — as well as an unspoken secret between the two — threatens to come to a head with ruinous consequences.
I knew next to nothing about this film before going into it, but being a moderate fan of Durst I knew I wanted to at least keep an open mind (I managed to skip the aforementioned Ice Cube flick, so I didn’t’ have that to burden me down). I’m glad I did too, as I found pretty much everything about this film an enjoyable outing; sure, it was uneven in parts, but there’s a certain something about this film that is just so enjoyable. I think it has to do with the strength of the script and the characters in the film; while the film never seems to feel like it has much of a real purpose (as in it doesn’t have much of a story to tell), it nevertheless keeps you interested in what’s going on with it.
It did for me, at least. I’ve been so deluged with big action flicks lately that a quiet and modest film that takes place in the 70s around a core group of characters was a refreshing pace. It definitely felt like a film that a first time director would make; very indie in feeling and construction, with an overabundance of artistic flourishes sprinkled throughout the film. On top of that the dialogue in the film was borderline pretentious, as there was so much about it that made the characters in the film seem like the most intellectual blowhards that could possibly exist at college. Maybe that’s how the 70s were, I don’t know.
The time period also helped make the film feel more innocent than it would have been if it was a modern film. The lack of technology helped free up the pomposity of it to the point where it just didn’t feel wholly ridiculous. But what really made the film such an interesting outing was the gradual way the characters all changed in the film. You genuinely felt bad for Mick (Jason Ritter) as he just didn’t seem to catch a break and he fell back into bad habits so easily. Charlie’s (Jesse Eisenberg) gradual standing up to Mick was also fantastic, a previous meeting in the past caused a bit of tension to rise up between the two. Really, the film is a character study and I cannot stress that enough; I liken it to something like A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, as an overall story isn’t there; there’s no big, grand explanation for the goings on of the universe or how it impacts everyone else. It’s just a very contained character study that rarely expands to include anyone not already brought in early on in the film.
Overall The Education of Charlie Banks is a very indie feeling flick, as well as a film that might be better categorized as a film students big production, as it just has that amateurish charm to it. It’s far from perfect and can feel uneasy and even pointless at times, but if you’re looking for a break from the summer blockbusters The Education of Charlie Banks is a fairly laid back, thoughtful and strongly acted character piece. Recommended.
Anchor Bay has released the film in a standard environmentally friendly amaray single disc case with a cardboard o-ring adorning the outside. Inside the case is the disc itself which boasts the same art as the exterior shots and a fairly well done menu system greets us once we pop the disc in. Video is a standard anamorphic widescreen 16×9 presentation, although I did find the DD5.1 audio incredibly difficult to hear at times; not only in sound levels but also in just how the characters talked. But, the film is really a quiet film regardless, so cranking up the sound to hear everything properly will never blow you out when a rousing musical score kicks in or anything. The laid back nature of the film is matched by the subtle audio and video transfer.
Extras are minimal, with the Trailer (2:16) being presented, as well as a Conversations Behind The Education of Charlie Banks (23:51) that interviews key cast and crew members. Durst, Ritter and writer Peter Elkoff get the most screen time here and altogether it’s a solid look at the making of for the film. Finally we have a Commentary by Fred Durst and Jason Ritter that is well worth checking out if you enjoyed the film; it’s just a lot of discussions on how the film came to be and it’s especially interesting to hear these two talk about working on it, as it was Durst’s first film and one of Ritter’s more high profile roles.
Overall it’s a solid release, but again keep in mind that this is just a very, very laid back and subtle film. Don’t expect much aside from a few laughs and strongly written characters; it won’t bowl you over with its wit or any of that, but it is definitely a film that can be enjoyed if you’re in the right mood and is definitely a bit of an art piece. Recommended.
The Education of Charlie Banks is now available on DVD.