Oct 8, 2012

[Movies] The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

There are so many stories in the world that it seems the writers and other creatives of the world are caught in an endless race to capture them all and give them physical form. Stories, I always feel, just exist out there in some strange ether until the right person - a writer, a filmmaker or even a beatboxer - manages to catch that story, embrace it, and breathe life into it.

And while there are so many fantastic stories out there - daring adventures in space or magical journeys into hidden realms and such - it's the more common, everyday stories that often get ignored and perhaps almost forgotten. And thus we get those creative individuals who manage to bring these stories to life instead and present to us a unique view of our own lives.

Such stories have immediate resonance with many of us - they capture our minds and hearts because the stories reflect us somehow. We read the words or we watch the actors on the big screen and even for just a moment we see ourselves in their shoes. And that's part of the magic of storytelling.

Synopsis: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the 2012 movie adaptation of the book of the same name. Both the book and the movie were written by Stephen Chbosky, who is the same who wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of the musical RENT and was the writer and executive producer behind the TV series Jericho. Chbosky also directed this movie.

At the center of our story is Charlie (Logan Lerman) - or at least that's what we come to call him. He is starting his freshman year in high school and is a bit of a social reclusive. Initially his only form of social interaction is writing letters to some undeclared penpal of sorts that details the events in his life. Despite his hopes that things will go well, his first week at school is pretty rough except for making a new friend in his English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). Clearly he's struggling with some initially undeclared trauma and is reluctant to seek support from his family about it.

Things start to change when he finds the nerve to strike up a conversation with a senior named Patrick (Ezra Miller), who happens to be in his shop class, while at a school football game. There he also meets Sam (Emma Watson), who is Sam's half-sister. Slowly but surely, Charlie starts to feel comfortable with the siblings and he is slowly introduced to their unique circle of friends. And amid the varied expereinces of 80's music, recreational drug use and underaged drinking, Sam eventually learns precisely what has turned Charlie into the social misfit that he is and find all the more reason to support him and be his friends.

Now if it's one thing that I've noticed among book-to-movie adaptation that I end up liking is how they manage to maintain the strong characterization of the various figures in the book as translated on screen. Good books have nicely fully-fleshed out characters and it's not always as easy to achieve the same degree of detail in a film. But perhaps given how the director was also the book's author, the movie benefitted a lot from that unique degree of understanding of the subject matter and thus the characters felt very real indeed.

And what a stellar cast indeed! Given the relative youth of the cast, they all did remarkably well in portraying these fairly complex characters without overly turning them into adults pretending to be in high school. Many writers forget how mature teenagers can be (or at least how mature they see themselves). And thus this movie - like the book before it, I imagine - really situates itself as a key coming-of-age piece for the young and the once-young.

And that's really it - the movie captures so much of the teenage experience (regardless of the 1980's time setting) - and that's where a lot of the appeal for this story lies.

Lerman makes for a very brilliant Charlie. He's a rather intense young man who manages to convey both young innocence and yet the aging of trauma rather well. And playing against the precocious and stunning Emma Watson makes for one very, very compelling on-screen pair. Throw in the equally flexible and rather dynamic Ezra Miller and you have quite the interesting trio. More than anything else, the movie rides on the ability of these three young actors to get along and they achieve this goal most fabulously.

It's interesting to note that despite the movie being set in the 1980's, the trappings of that didn't feel like such an overwhelming or even distracting element. We have a lot of movies that try to celebrate the 80's by throwing it in our faces to a degree that makes it feel more like hyperbole. But in this movie things begin rather subtly and it isn't until we see the first mix tape that we realize that the song choices have a purpose along with the subtle absence of cellular phones and other mobile devices. And thus the time remained just that - a part of the setting and not a character in itself, thus helping the movie become all the more timeless.

This is more than just another romp into teenage angst. This is a carefully crafted tale of a young man dealing with his social challenges and the very real trauma in his past that has triggered all these personal issues for him. And it's not even a straight up boy meets girl type of story either and it manages to capture some of the complex nuances of teenage relationships - many of them all too familiar to us.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those rare movies - or perhaps just one of those rare stories that is different from our lives and yet feels exactly like our lives at the same time. It's a great film and one that I'd recommend that all you should see. I loved it enough to pick up the book immediately after finishing the movie since I wanted to know the characters even more, if possible. And that's a very good thing indeed. So the movie gets 5 memory triggering songs used in the movie (Come On Eileen!) out of a possible 5.

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  1. I've read the book, but haven't seen the movie. I read the book because I read somewhere that Emma Watson would be in the movie. :)
    My favorite quote there is -
    "Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor."
    Live life!

  2. I'm going the reverse path now, hehe. Now that I've seen the movie, I'm just getting started on the book!