Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) ***½

PG-13, 102 min.
Director/Writer: Stephen Chbosky (also novel)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev, Johnny Simmons, Dylan McDermott, Fran Walsh, Melanie Lynskey, Erin Wilhelmi, Adam Hagenbuch, Joan Cusack

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is essentially “The Breakfast Club” for the Y or Z generation, with a little added twist of personal drama. I’m not sure how necessary that personal drama is to the proceedings, but it is an interesting subject that is not often tackled in a movie focused on teens.

Charlie is going into his freshman year in high school. His big brother has gone off to college. His big sister is at that age when it is detrimental to her social standing to be seen with her little brother and middle school was not kind on Charlie socially. He’s a wallflower who has yet to discover the perks of being one.

There are reasons why he’s so socially awkward, but they don’t much matter when he finally does find a group of likewise social misfits led by the bother and sister team of Patrick and Sam. Patrick is openly gay and Sam gained an unfortunate reputation her freshman year. They welcome Charlie into their little clique and we get one of your typical coming of age high school dramadies, but a particularly well-made one.

This one strikes me a little deeper than some I’ve seen, because it deals with issues that are still part of the national canvas. Patrick’s sexuality is perhaps the most obvious of these because of the current national debate over gay marriage. Charlie’s personal issues are also particularly poignant due to the current greater acceptance and continuing headlines involving mental illness and how to deal with it. A major factor of Charlie’s mental issues I will leave for you to discover, but I fear this element might cloud the greater issue of mental illness by placing such a specific and shocking reason for his.

Mental illness is really beside the point in the more universal elements of surviving high school to which most of us can relate. High school—that hell of a place where everybody wants to be the same and different from everybody else all at once. That transitional time when we discover who we really are and where we fit in socially with everybody else. We often fight against our natures to fit where we don’t belong because we don’t really know who we are yet. It’s a terrible time for many, and yet also one of the most freeing and adventurous. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” gets all of the details about this tumultuous time in the American life cycle just right. I can imagine it will mean the same to the kids who see it today that movies like “The Breakfast Club” meant to my generation.

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