Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Reuben, Jun 25, 2009.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
    Likes Received:
    The Education of Charlie Banks

    Anchor Bay
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 101 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (enhanced for 16:9)
    Audio: English DD 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
    MSRP: $29.97
    Package: Keepcase
    Insert: None
    Theatrical Release Date: April 27, 2009 (but see below)
    DVD Release Date: June 30, 2009


    It's taken over two years for the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst to become widely
    available. Shot in 2006, Durst's unconventional coming-of-age tale debuted to an enthusiastic
    response at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, then sat on a shelf for two years before finally
    receiving a theatrical release - in three theaters for two weeks. Its box office was just over
    $15,000. In the meantime, Durst would find work as a journeyman director for one of Ice Cube's
    family-friendly films, The Longshots, released in 2008.
    Anchor Bay has now given The Education of Charlie Banks a solid DVD release so that a wider
    audience can experience a distinctive voice in contemporary filmmaking, one who (as the release
    history of Charlie Banks suggests) will not have an easy time being heard in the current
    marketplace. Defying the expectations raised by his history as a rap and nu metal musician, Durst
    chose a character-driven script that he filmed in a nuanced, deliberate style evoking the classics
    of 1970s filmmaking. It is not an accident that the title character prominently displays the iconic
    image of Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull on the wall of his college dorm room (though, as a film
    reference, Mean Streets would be just as appropriate).
    The Feature:

    It is the early seventies. Two ten-year-old schoolboys, Charlie and Danny, are sitting in a school
    bus outside a Village playground, waiting to go home. Suddenly, Danny points out Mitch Leary,
    a famously tough kid who swaggers onto a basketball court occupied by much older players, who
    obviously accept him. Mitch is respected and feared for having beaten down another kid who
    committed the cardinal sin of spray-painting over one of Mitch's "tags". Charlie is both terrified
    and fascinated.
    Fast-forward a few years, and it's a high school party attended by a teenage Charlie (Jesse
    Eisenberg, most recently seen in Adventureland), Danny (Chris Marquette, Joan of Arcadia) and
    Mitch (Jason Ritter, also from Joan of Arcadia). Mitch is still the quintessential cool guy, with
    girls lining up to make out with him, but before the evening is out, Charlie watches him commit
    an act of violence so casually savage that Charlie is jolted into making a police report. Mitch is
    arrested, but when Charlie sees how deeply the arrest upsets Danny, who has become close
    friends with Mitch, he withdraws his statement, despite crushing disapproval by his father (a
    cameo appearance by veteran character actor Dennis Boutsikaris). Mitch is released, and no one
    knows that it was Charlie who reported him.
    Fast-forward a few years more, and Charlie and Danny are roommates at an idyllic Ivy League
    college. Their circle of friends includes a charming, hard-partying rich kid named Leo (Sebastian
    Stan) and a senator's daughter named Mary (the lovely and talented Eva Amurri, daughter of
    Susan Sarandon), on whom Charlie has a crush. One day, though, Charlie returns to his dorm
    room to find Mitch there. He just turned up, Danny explains. And then he decides to stay.
    Against his better judgment, Charlie begins to like Mitch. Unfortunately, so does Mary.
    In other hands, The Education of Charlie Banks might have turned into a cheesy thriller, turning
    on the question of why Mitch is there and whether he knows that it was Charlie who ratted him
    out years earlier. But Durst recognized that writer Peter Elkoff's script had much more to it, if
    properly handled. Introducing an unknown and foreign element like Mitch into this collegiate
    group opens up rich possibilities for exploring the impact of wealth and class on people whose
    characters are not yet fully formed. As both Charlie and his friends react to Mitch's presence,
    they begin to reveal different parts of themselves, and they draw out different parts of Mitch.
    Among other things, Mitch begins auditing classes and even reads an entire book. Appropriately
    enough, it's that great American parable of the illusion of upward mobility, The Great Gatsby.

    Like all good directors, Durst understands the critical importance of casting. He went against
    type with Jason Ritter, whose Mitch neither looks nor sounds like a tough guy. The character is
    not meant to be a crazed psychopath, but merely someone whose early experience taught him
    when and how to use violence and never to back down. We get just enough hints of Mitch's
    background to understand how those lessons were learned.

    Durst also chose well in casting Jesse Eisenberg as Charlie on the strength of prior performances
    in Rodger Dodger and The Squid and the Whale, because Eisenberg has a natural talent for
    showing the camera what his character is feeling, even as his character is concealing it from
    those around him. Eisenberg's Charlie is always the most conflicted character on screen, the guy
    caught in the middle, and not just between his friend, Danny, and his boogeyman, Mitch. Durst
    takes care to show us that Charlie is from a middle class family, which means that he's not like
    Mitch. But he doesn't come from money, which means he's also not like Danny (whose doctor
    parents live in a luxurious Manhattan brownstone) or Leo or Mary (who come from privilege and
    power). This makes Charlie something of an outsider in almost every situation. His emotions are
    always being pulled in multiple directions, perhaps no more so than in a painful and funny scene
    in which he is trying to flirt with Mary in a hot tub at Leo's house, only to have a naked Mitch
    suddenly hop in between them. Mary, of course, immediately warms to the bad boy.

    Then there's Leo, whose idea of an impulse buy is a $200,000 yacht, and who adopts Mitch so
    thoroughly that he hands him an entire wardrobe of preppy clothing. Mitch is obviously touched
    by this gesture, not realizing that to Leo he is just a passtime of the moment. (To Mary as well.)
    For his part, Leo thinks he's performing an act of noblesse oblige and can't see that, even as
    Mitch is overwhelmed by the glitter of Leo's world, he's also judging it.

    Durst shoots the film in long, uninterrupted takes, letting the actors play out the characters'
    relationships in as much detail as possible. It's an approach that requires your full attention, but
    also rewards it. These characters are three-dimensional people, even when they behave badly or
    stupidly (which is often).

    Knowing Mitch as he does, Charlie can never relax, and concerns about violence are never far
    from his mind or the audience's. The film does indeed end violently, but not in any way that one
    might have anticipated. It's a realistic film, and it ends in a way that's thoroughly believable.
    Scorsese may be one of Durst's inspirations, but this is no Taxi Driver. As much as Durst may
    enjoy filling the frame with the kind of mythic reference points that college students can't resist -
    DeNiro in Raging Bull, Fitzgerald's Gatsby - he also understands that these cultural archetypes
    are only distant stars that can be used to chart a course in life. The course itself remains
    earthbound and pedestrian. That too is part of Charlie Banks's education.

    (Note: Some reviewers complained that Mitch's continued presence on a college campus defies
    credibility. They were wrong. I attended an Ivy League school, and I can assure you that people
    regularly stayed in dorm rooms, ate at cafeterias, even audited classes, without ever being
    registered. No one cared, and no one checked. A different level of security may apply today, but
    at the time when the film is set, anyone who knew a registered student could have done what
    Mitch does.)


    I did not manage to catch Charlie Banks during its blink-and-you'll-miss-it theatrical run, but I'm
    impressed with its presentation on DVD. For NTSC resolution, the image is remarkably detailed,
    which is especially important given Durst's preference for long and medium shots. Video noise is
    evident but controlled, and there doesn't appear to have been any artificial sharpening. Colors are
    somewhat muted in the early childhood and high school scenes, but then become stronger and
    more varied when we reach the collegiate present. Still, there is a softness to the image that
    appears to be deliberate, as befits a story of looking backward. Colors tend toward the warm end
    of the spectrum, and this particularly suits the various outdoor shots at the college and the
    sequence in which Leo flies everyone to a palatial estate overlooking the seashore.


    There are moments in the film when the 5.1 soundtrack is intensely immersive and involving. A
    notable example occurs toward the film's end during a sequence at a formal dance, when you feel
    like you're on the dance floor with the characters. For much of the film, though, the mix is not
    only front-centered, but also tightly focused in the center channel. Even before I listened to
    Durst's commentary, in which he confirmed his conscious choice of a "seventies" style, I was
    aware that I was hearing it in the sound track: natural-sounding dialogue, much of it overlapping,
    relatively little ADR, with the emphasis more on the emotional timbre of the exchanges than on
    making each specific word stand out. The dialogue always remains paramount, and the rest of the
    soundtrack is designed to support it. Even the musical soundtrack is usually weighted toward the
    front, with relatively light support from the surrounds (with the exception of specific effects such
    as the dance sequence noted above). While this is not material for showing off one's sound
    system, it is an appropriate sound design for the film as Durst has conceived it.

    Special Features:

    Commentary by director Fred Durst and actor Jason Ritter. I would have preferred more
    Durst and less Ritter. Ritter's enthusiasm is undeniable, but he's a better actor than he is a
    speaker. Durst's affection for the film and everyone involved in it is so strong that it sometimes
    leads to the "everyone was great" style of commentary, but he does provide insight into his
    directorial style by routinely pointing out scenes that were shot without coverage and elements
    that the actors were able to add because they were working in long, uninterrupted takes.

    Conversations Behind The Education of Charlie Banks (23:51). A well-edited "making of"
    featuring interviews with Durst, screenwriter Peter Elkoff, various cast members and members of
    the production team. Of particular interest are the contributions by Elkoff, who discusses the
    inspirations for his original script.
    Trailers. The film's trailer is included, though I doubt it ever played in any theater. Selectable
    from the special features menu are trailers for While She Was Out, Sex and Death 101, The
    and Surfer, Dude. Also included on the disc upon startup (and skippable via the menu
    button) are previews for the Starz series Crash, an upcoming film entitled Lies and Illusions and
    the recently released independent feature Bart Got a Room.

    In Conclusion:

    A compelling new voice in American cinema finally gets a chance to be heard. Seek it out. If the
    DVD sells well enough, maybe Durst won't have to depend on Ice Cube's charity for his next

    Equipment used for this review:

    Denon 955 DVD player
    Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display
    Lexicon MC-8
    Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
    Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
    Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
    Velodyne HGS-10 sub
  2. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

    Dec 1, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Disney World and Universal Florida
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    I'll be trying to fit this in tomorrow and I had no idea that Fred Durst had become movie director.
    After I noticed Durst directed this I looked it up I saw that he also dir Longshots from a year or so ago as you mentioned Michael.

    Anyway I'll try to watch it tomorrow, maybe while I'm playing around with my new iPhone.
  3. MarkBirds

    MarkBirds Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 30, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Put this my Netflix queue on a whim and it came today. Definitely going to watch it tonight. Great review!

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