John Hughes had a saying that you are more serious at age 16 than you are at any other time in your life, and I’m suppose that’s true. Reading a novel like “Perks of Being a Wallflower” as a teenager, you walk away with an intense emotional experience. It would be easy for me as an adult to shrug off this book and movie as easily the case of overly dramatic teenagers, despite how serious their problems are. I have read the bestselling young adult novel the movie is based on, and I always thought that “Perks” was a story about closed doors. The problem with me as an adult is that “Perks” packs a lot of teenage problems in a novel that’s about 206 pages. Rape, pedophilia, coming out of the closet, bullying, drugs, sex, mental health, depression, and all sorts of stuff that teens deal with. Between all the typical teenage scenes in the book and movie, someone says something that sticks out like a sore thumb, often an admission of some kind that doesn’t sound quite right.This brings me back to John Hughes’s saying, that everything is more serious when you are a teenager. It would be really easy for me to talk on and on about all the issues this novel brings up in such a short space, but on with the movie review. Charlie is a shy kid, who is just starting high school. On his first day, he meets a wonderful English teacher (Paul Rudd), who sees how smart he is, and starts giving him extra books to read. He starts to read books like “A Separate Piece” and “Catcher in the Rye”, which in this story is almost foreshadowing of the actual story we get. Angst ridden teen novels, in an angst ridden movie based on an angst ridden teen novel, I’m starting to get the picture. It helps that this movie is written and directed by the author of the actual book, which is very rare, Stephen Chosky. Charlie is a wallflower, which means he sits back and observes, doesn’t get involved and has an unusual way of thinking.
Soon he meets some older kids, Sam and Patrick (Ezra Miller). Emma Watson and Ezra Miller have wonderful chemistry as step brother and sister, and are obviously good matches for the shy Patrick. They are quirky and it’s hard not to like them as they go on and on about good music versus bad music. Ezra Miller is very good here, as Patrick, the gay kid who has some secrets of his own. Emma Watson is also very good, with an American accent. As Charlie, the beloved character from this beloved novel, Logan Lerman does a wonderful job, and I’m (probably foolishly) hoping he gets an Oscar nod. There are a lot of hints in this movie (and in the novel) about his obsession with his dead aunt. Obviously, something was going on between him as a kid and this aunt that wasn’t exactly normal. Often, victims of abuse in the way Charlie was, become obsessed with the abuser.
Despite all the issues this film brings up, it works, because with all the underlying darkness, there’s a lot of sweatiness to these characters. Charlie’s shyness, and his two outcast friends, Sam and Patrick bring a lot of great friendship that helps them get through their traumas. Scenes like when Sam gives Charlie his first kiss, saying that the first person who kisses him should be someone who loves him, we get the sense that she means she loves him as a very good friend loves another. The scene where Patrick buys Charlie a suit because of Charlie’s great desire to be a writer or the scene where after Charlie admits that his best friend shot himself, they raise their glasses to Charlie after Sam tells Patrick what happened.
“Perks” would be easy for me to dismiss as I am no longer a teenager, and maybe I don’t have that intense nature anymore that I once had as a teenager, but a lot of teenagers have an intense nature and this film brings us back to that. I know a lot of kids will be waiting on line to see “Twilight”, and believe me, I have nothing against that. I think we all need an escape, but it is kind of a shame that more kids won’t be on line to see “Perks of Being a Wallflower”, which they might actually take something away from. One of the great accomplishments of the writer Stephen Chbosky in both the film, and this, his so far only novel, is just some of the lines alone, like “We feel infinite” or “We recieve the love we think we deserve.” Writing for teenagers often allows a writer to go for a line that perhaps some adults would roll their eyes at, because a teenager feels that seriousness John Hughes was talking about. However, a lot of Chobosky’s lines have become iconic and have great truth to them. A lot of the lines from the book (and now the move) raise this story from a normal young adult novel. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” might require the viewer to get in touch with their inner adolescence, and remember a time that the world did feel that serious. However, the issues these teenagers deal with aren’t exclusive to only teens, as many adults have problems with the same things.
What I would suggest is that if your kid is begging to see the finale of “Twilight”, make a deal with them that they also see this. I always think it’s important for younger movie goers to not only go to movies that feed them entertainment, but also give them something personal and positive to walk away with. As I said earlier, I have nothing against escapism for younger viewers, but I think “Perks” might also balance that out with something they might hold onto. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is that book that teens probably pass along to each other, and this movie is the kind of movie that might actually help teens copes with some of the very serious issues they deal with. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is one of the year’s best films, and a testament to being able to create characters for teenagers and adults alike. On a personal note, I’ve been waiting to review the movie version of this book ever since I’ve read the wonderful novel, and I wasn’t disappointed with the film. Often smaller movies that are geared for teenagers are the best films for them to see. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is one of the year’s best films, and hopefully one of the best attended.