2012. 103 min. Rated PG 13.
“Dear Friend, I’m sorry I haven’t written in awhile, but I’ve been trying hard to not be a loser.”
The heart of this movie can be summed up by what I witnessed in the women’s bathroom after the movie. A girl standing by the sink was saying how much she cried during the movie and these girls waiting in line said extremely loud, “I didn’t cry at all” while the others cattily agreed in unison. The girl beside the sink proceeded to grumble, “What a bunch of bitches.” I looked over at these three prissy girls in line then glanced back to the girl at the sink where our eyes met, and I said “yep” with much laughter. Because they probably had great high school experiences, they never felt, or at least admitted to, those feelings of alienation, pain, and awkwardness that made people in the theater cry (hell, the way they were acting, they probably made a few cry themselves). The important part is that there are people you meet who will help you laugh through the pain. I have made two friends in my life who deeply changed both my high school and college careers because the times I felt so alone they were both there to laugh and cry along with me.
Fifteen-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman) is looking for just those friends. On the eve before his first day in high school, he can only hope to start over. After suffering from the death of his best friend and beloved aunt, his family treats him like he’s walking on eggshells. Charlie realizes how much high school sucks, quickly befriending only his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) in his first weeks at school. Mr. Anderson exposes him to many new novels and encourages him to be a writer (he’s the kind of teacher everyone should have at least once in their lives). At a football game, Charlie is brave enough to talk to class clown Patrick (Ezra Miller), a senior from his shop class. Patrick and his stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson) expose Charlie to a new family of friends and the memories that come with it.
You can’t help but love Charlie. He’s intelligent, dresses like an English teacher, loves books, is deeply sensitive, and enjoys typewriters. He is also a wallflower, someone who thinks he is never seen or heard. When Patrick and Sam notice him, Charlie truly blossoms. Friendship does not come without a price, though. Charlie is hopelessly in love with Sam, who is still trying to overcome her past and find her self worth. He’s too nice to refuse the advances of her punk Buddist friend, Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) and this creates a messy triangle. Meanwhile, he watches Patrick deal with being openly gay, and a boyfriend who hides it at all costs. The group worries about passing the SATs, dating, and where they will go to college, while Charlie tries to be supportive and goes along for the ride.
Music is a big part of the movie which sports a killer soundtrack. Charlie’s sister gets mix tapes from her boyfriend, while Charlie shares tapes to impress Sam. It just might introduce an entire legion of teens to David Bowie, The Smiths and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, although I’m guessing most people who love this movie already have heard of them (whatever happened to mix tapes? They were so awesome and I hope everyone has a “tunnel” song).
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a classic novel, was lucky enough to be adapted and directed by the author, Steven Chbosky. a feat not too many movies can boast. Although it has been a while since I have read it, the actors nailed the emotion behind these characters and the powerful dialogue from the novel. He even got a few jabs in about religion while he was at it. Emma Watson has left her wand at the door, showing she can be more than Hermoine Granger. The rawness between Sam and Charlie was deep in the silences between them.
It reminded me of how emotional and hard high school was. This movie should not be written off as another angsty teen coming-of-age movie. It deals with harsh realities without the happiest endings. It portrays real characters who are messy and without stereotypes. It makes me want to be a good role model for teens who need it, and a friend who is imagining the studded shoes of those bitches falling in the toilet.