Friday, October 05, 2012

PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER: The Film Babble Blog Review

(Dir. Stephen Chbosky, 2012) 

I related to this film a little, my wife related to it A LOT. 

You see, she went to high school in the same era that the film is set (early ‘90s), cherished the same music (The Smiths, New Order, Cocteau Twins) that the central characters cherished, and went to the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW repeatedly, again, just like these kids.

Adapted and directed by Stephen Chbosky, from his 1999 young adult novel, PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, concerns the coming of age of a high school freshman in Pittsburgh named Charlie (a well cast Logan Lerman). Charlie partly tells the story through letters he’s writing to an anonymous friend, in which we learn that he’s badly in need of friends.

Our shy protagonist soon finds them in the form of a couple of seniors: the quick-witted and openly gay Patrick (Ezra Miller, so showing a different side than in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN), and the shorthaired Sam (Emma Watson), who will surely be labeled a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” by many critics.

With Charlie, there’s more going on than just his desire to be accepted and fit in. Casually, at his first party ever, Charlie mentions to Sam that his best friend shot himself. There’s also haunting memories of an Aunt who died (Melanie Lynskey), so we see that Charlie’s development has been sorely stunted.

Charlie pines for Sam, but she’s seeing a pretentious art student douche (Reece Thompson). Charlie finds himself in an unwanted relationship with another fellow outcast student (Mae Whitman from Parenthood), which amounts to some amusingly awkard (and truthful feeling) scenes, while Patrick deals with a secret romance with the quarterback of the football team (Johnny Simmons).

Paul Rudd has a nice turn as a sympathetic teacher who gives Charlie books to encourage his interest in writing, as do Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh as Charlie’s concerned but clueless parents.

Although at times it feels like a big screen after school special (props to it totally owning up to that in a throwaway line), or a self conscious homage to the films of John Hughes, Chbosky’s finely tuned drama doesn’t shy away from darkness as it nails a time before cell phones and iPods, when teenagers actually talked to each other. 

They made mix-tapes for each other of what they passionately proclaimed to be “good music,” and bonded through songs on the radio that if they didn’t catch the title or artist they couldn’t easily Google.

My wife said that it was like seeing her high school years made into a movie. It resonated with me too, albeit not as strongly, but it struck me as funny, touching, and sincere in its depiction of friendship. 

Despite the technological advances, the themes of PERKS are universal, and should resonate with the kids today too. That is, if they can tear themselves away from texting.

PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER opens today in the Triangle at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh, and at Crossroads 20 in Cary.

More later...

1 comment:

Leonardo D'Cato said...

I like the movie version, but I love the book. I read "the Perks of Being a Wallflower" when I was in high school and it still resonates with me today. Chobsky did a great job adapting his novel. But his novel is way darker than the movie - he omitted a lot of smaller details that made the book quite controversial for its time. Great review! Check out my blog @