Anchor Bay Entertainment | USA | 100 minutes
(The following review contains minor spoilers)
When you hear the name Fred Durst usually an image of Limp Bizkit on TRL in 2000 comes to mind. You think stereotypical hard rock ass. What you probably don’t think is film director and especially not dramatic film director, but that is exactly what is seen in Durst’s directorial debut The Education of Charlie Banks. The film had a limited release after receiving the “Made in NY Narrative Award” at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was then released on DVD at the end of June 2009. The film stars Jessie Eisenberg (Adventureland) and Jason Ritter (W.).
The title of the film is very true as it is dealing with the title character Charlie Banks (Eisenberg) learning how to cope with his “boogeyman.” A child hood bully named Mick whom he shares a mutual friend with. Charlie and Mick first meet at a party when Mick ends up getting into a fight with and brutally beating two guys who decided to get rough with him. This is where we first get a glimpse of the brutality that Mick is capable of. Finally wanting to put closure to his fear of Mick, Charlie goes to the cops and gives a statement that would have the potential to put Mick away for good, but after having a talk with the mutual friend — never revealing that he was the one who went to the cops — decides to withdraw his statement. This is the last we hear or see of Mick for a while.
We end up rejoining Charlie during his first year of college. He goes through everything your typical student goes through in their first year. Meeting friends, first loves, parties, drinking, time management, etc. When out of blue Mick shows up at Charlie’s dorm as a guest of his roommates (his friend from earlier in the film). Charlie, quite surprised, greets Mick hesitantly. Immediately we are brought right back into the type of person Mick is when he forces Charlie to stay in and finish his homework. You begin to wonder at that moment was Mick in his own mind trying to help Charlie do the right thing? Especially when you get the feeling that he is aware that Charlie is the one that rated him out.
For the rest of the time the film you begin to see a real friendship begin to form between Charlie and Mick. We see it form almost in stages as Durst takes us on a journey of sorts. First Charlie and Mick trying to shed their preconceptions of each other and then learning about each other all culminating in a scene that I wont go to deep into but it is very powerful. We also see the friendship break down because Mick can never truly find a place in his world and he still has no self control. I don’t want to reveal a lot about this because this is something that the viewer needs to experience for themselves but everything leads into the finale of the film when trust is truly betrayed and we see Charlie become everything he wanted to be in the beginning.
The film also makes one feel for Mick as more than just a bully but as a human being. We see him come to the realization that his life sucks and that there is so much more he is capable of. We see him begin to take initiative and responsibility which all leads up to a huge twist which explains why Mick showed up in the first place. After that we see Mick enter his final downward spiral.
Really the only thing that I have bad to say about the film is the voice over narration provided by Eisenberg. His narration is what moves the story forward over the time span but it becomes really distracting and annoying. It reminds me of the narration that Harrison Ford provided in Blade Runner — it really serves no purpose at all.
The Education of Charlie Banks is a gripping emotional film. Fred Durst truly delivered a heart breaking take on friendship and trust. I think Durst did so well on it because a lot of what we see in the film is mirrored in the real life struggles that Durst’s band Limp Bizkit went through over the last 8 years. I was blown away at the character development and the story as a whole. Eisenberg and Ritter both play their characters perfectly and I really hope that Durst continues to provide us with these gripping stories because he has proven he is good at it.