Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Sophomore Year Must Have Sucked.

Ten points for Gryffindor.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower will resonate with anyone who remembers feeling like an outsider in high school, which as one eventually discovers, is pretty much everyone.  It's a well-crafted, capsule of nostalgia focused around an incredibly dull, yet invariably scarred, loner named Charlie who finds himself befriended by an intriguing band of misfit youths.

The film manages to capture the mood of youthful insecurity and the transitory sense of entering and leaving high school, all the while reminding us, perhaps a little too often, of the ignorance inherent in children's ploys at maturity.  Charlie seems to be the only real wallflower of the bunch; he acts as narrator, and would be a completely vapid character if not for a tragic past and a crush on Hermione Granger.

It is the friends Charlie makes that drive the plot.  Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) are step-siblings whom, after the realization that Charlie has no real friends, adopt him as their own.  Charlie seems to contribute little to this friendship, apart from being a virginal target for corruption and a fresh face to talk to.  I suppose that's more than most friendships are based on, but I think I harbored a small grudge for Charlie's uninteresting personality.  I mean, sure he reads books, but he's not that cool.  And he has a stupid trapper keeper.

But Charlie isn't important.  He's the storyteller and everyone else is the story.  He offers some insight and manages to amuse with his social failures, but apart from a torrid past which seems largely irrelevant most of the time, he pretty much just makes mix tapes and writes letters to some random acquaintance who "didn't sleep with that girl that one time".  Seriously, that's the explanation we get.

Patrick steals the show.  He's gay and he's fabulous, without being a fabulously gay stereotype.  He feuds with the shop teacher, dates the high school football star, and exudes more confidence than Charlie lacks.  Of course, he's human, so he gets a little sad eventually, but it's not really fun, so whatever.

Sam quickly becomes the love of Charlie's life, as Emma Watsons tend to have that effect on teenage boys.  She's tough on the outside, fragile on the inside, and is somehow unfamiliar with David Bowie even though she has an 80's music obsession.  She dates older guys who say things like, "I don't write poetry, poetry writes me," and has the gall to ask Charlie why he's never asked her out, even though she's never given him an in.  Standard high school stuff.

Everyone else is pretty minor.  Some stuff happens.  The high school kids say stupid things.  Everyone has a moment of growth.  It's sentimental, but it pulls it off.  It's an enjoyable film that highlights adolescence more than it comments, and I wish it came out when I was younger, because I'd probably love it as much as I did every Jena Malone or Kieran Culkin movie that came out in the early 2000's.  If you want to be reminded how great/horrible being sixteen is, you could certainly do worse than Perks.

By the way, at the end of the movie, all of Charlie's friends graduate and go to college.  So, he pretty much has to start from scratch and find an entire new group of friends next year.  He'll probably have another mental breakdown.


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