On Saturday I had a hot date with my friend Becky. I persuaded her that we didn’t want to see the Anna Karenina movie because the thought of enduring a Tolstoy classic being ruined by Keira Knightley’s gasping-for-air thatpasses as acting, was unbearable. I had wanted to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I affectionately named the perky wallflower film, as it is in the long line of tradition of coming-of-age dramas that I am very fond of. The film is based on a book set in the early 90’s (hence the beautiful cinematography of low quality pixels and muted hues), and follows a highschool freshmen’s (Charlie) introduction into the real world, led by his colourful wallflower friends (Sam and Patrick). The high school divide – the cool kids, the losers – is reminiscent of iconic 80’s films like Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, and successfully made me grateful that I never experienced an American education system. Ezra Miller’s Patrick brings all the comic relief and flamboyance of Duckie, but with an added persona of confidence coupled with not overplaying the camp card. However it was really the protagonist Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, who I fell in love with. He executed social awkwardness to perfection; he wasn’t comical, he didn’t make it uncomfortable, he played it with such sincerity that awkwardness was retained in its little awkward box where it belongs: a social limbo.
He was indeed the perfect wallflower.
It took a total of 10 minutes from the moment Emma Watson appeared on screen to realise that I was not watching the latest installment of Harry Potter. The parallels were glaring: the two guys and a girl dynamic, the one guy hopelessly pining after the girl, everything screamed Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The minor difference being that this time Harry was actually gay (Patrick), Ron was not ginger (Charlie), and Hermione was quite the slut (Sam). Charlie is a kid with a lot not right inside but the film does not fixate on him as being the subject of a mental disorder. Instead the pill popping is blurred out into the background as the real story is about human connections, being yourself (no matter what your experiences), and not feeling like everyone will turn you away.
“Do you ever feel like if you told someone everything in your head they’d think you were crazy?” (Charlie)
– How about all the time
The film’s tagline can be listed as “We accept the love we think we deserve” as the theme of choosing partners who are unsuitable and unworthy of our love, is played out in variations through the primary and background characters. In the middle of all this we find Charlie; a witness to what seems a universal mistake, and one which oppresses him to the point of psychosis.
I was floating along easily with the film; laughing when the gags were delivered, cringing when someone got caught out, and sympathising when there was a profound moment. But I felt as though I’d been cheated out of a catharsis of emotion. I was waiting for a tragic moment that would make this story feature-length worthy and not mini-series. I was beginning to think the director had seriously missed out on a dramatic opportunity, when suddenly the dramatic crescendo stole upon me. That moment when all those emotions poked at through the first 60 or so minutes came to a crashing climax, where before I had just been teased to no completion. I don’t want to ruin the ending but this happened whilst watching Charlie ask the psychiatrist “How do I make it stop? All the suffering, everyone I love is suffering. How do I stop it?”. The tears began with a modest trickle down my face and soon enough my flood gates were burst wide open. I suddenly went from leaning on the arm-rest I was sharing with Becky, to trying to disguise my torrential tears practically sitting on the empty seat next to me. I was crying so hard that I shocked myself . At some point I heard my phone drop to the cinema floor but my wet hot tears had me frozen to my seat. An old chap a few seats away took pity on me and returned my phone but I was so choked up I could barely mutter a thank you in reply.
I think Becky was secretly appalled by the excess of emotional display in public.
Some memorable one liners just to let you know this is not a completely wet movie, include “I met a tree but it was a dragon”; “$20? What do you want with $10?”; “Our relationship is so awful that sometimes I imagine one of us has cancer so that we don’t have to go on”.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is pretty perky, sad, funny, and surprisingly intense. And not forgetting, most certainly awkward. View it with an open mind and not too harsh criticism on the
pretentious over-emphasis on musical taste.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Directed by Stephen Chobsky