Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Sati. Wednesday, December 19, 2012 , , , , , , , ,
Remember high school? Or should I say - hellish nightmare? The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie - young teenager who is just starting high school. Charlie is shy and socially awkward - he doesn't have any real friends and he spends his time writing letters to mysterious person he calls his "friend", who likely doesn't exist. On the first day of school he is bullied and called names but he also catches the eye of his teacher - when his teacher, played by Paul Rudd, who I think is every one's dream teacher, asks who wrote the thing he just quoted no one answers. But he notices that Charlie wrote the correct answer in his notebook. He didn't raise his hand to reveal it, which is, by the way, what I've been doing all the time back in school.

Soon Charlie observes charismatic Patrick making fun of their teacher - Patrick makes fun of the teacher to make the freshmen relax and feel more comfortable, which unfortunately also leads to him being ridiculed by few of the students. During football game Charlie manages to find the courage to sit next to Patrick and starts talking with him, soon he also meets his step sister - Sam - they are both very friendly and sweet towards Charlie, who feels like he belongs somewhere for the first time in his life.
During the course of the movie we observe these three teenagers, mostly Charlie, and their ups and downs in high school - the parties, the love affairs, the heartbreaks. The film will feel very nostalgic to everyone who hated or enjoyed their time in high school - after all, we all share similar or even the same memories of this time - the proud parents taking our pictures before the prom, the time we saw some of our friends doing crazy things and the pain we felt when we saw someone we like with another person. Charlie feels all of that and since he is so shy he always feels like the observer in this vibrant, emotional world. And we observe it with him, feeling like we are right there.

The people we follow are all somewhat damaged, they call themselves misfits. Sam has a reputation, since when she was a freshman she was - there is not other way to call it - easy. Patrick is gay and he must hide his feelings for another schoolmate, as he is in the closet. And Charlie....well Charlie harbours a big, very damaging and shocking secret. We find out what it is by the time the movie is over, in incredibly shot breakdown sequence. And it's all very heartbreaking and powerful - to be quite honest, it felt like a punch right in the guts.
While I was watching the movie I felt sorry and envious towards Charlie, at the same time. On one hand he has this terrible thing in his past than haunts him and threatens to get out on the surface and destroy him. But on another he has very loving, supportive family. Though Charlie's parents played by Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh don't have many lines, you really sense the warmth and care being constantly present in their home. You sense that these people love their children and that they are there for them, no matter what.

We also meet Charlie's sister Candace - she is a senior when he is starting high school and she dates a guy who loves her, but at one time Charlie sees him slapping his sister. Candace tells him nothing like that happened before, but she is clearly scared. That brings back memories of Charlie's aunt, who was also abused by her boyfriend. It is clear from Charlie's reaction that he is very sensitive to other people's pain and sometimes he can't bare it. He doesn't understand why people need to suffer.
Candace is played by Nina Dobrev, of The Vampire Dairies fame. She is extremely beautiful young actress and she really impressed me with her short performance here. There is this one moment when Charlie is in trouble and calls her up - her reaction to the phone call, genuine fear and love for her brother felt incredibly realistic. It's really a sign of genuine talent when an actress can create such memorable work just with short screen time.

All three main teens are played by exceptional young actors - Logan Lerman (Charlie), Ezra Miller (Patrick) and Emma Watson (Sam). Lerman is fantastic here, really becoming his troubled yet easy to relate to character and the rawness of his work is incredible at many times. Miller who scared the crap out of everyone in last year's terrific We Need to talk about Kevin is fantastic and often very amusing as charismatic Patrick. Though I wouldn't call him a scene stealer, it's amazing that in Kevin he played a teen you would never want to meet and now he plays a friend you would love to have, with equal believability and conviction.
The weakest link out of three is definitely Emma Watson. The girl, bless her heart, really tries but she felt like a miscast for me. She doesn't have a "bad girl" vibe in her body and it was really hard for me to buy the fact that she was supposed to be all slutty and in drunken haze during her adventurous past. It really doesn't help that Watson appears to be so shy - she apparently refuses to watch her kissing scenes and Rocky Horror Picture Show sequences from the movie. Ah, honey, that's not the way to go.

One of the things that really helped with building the connections between the characters and the audience and the characters is the fact that the film is not set in the present. Though not explicitly shown on screen or mentioned, the film is set during the 1991-92 school year. Music, technology and clothing styles all reference this as well. There is no facebook, the teenagers aren't glued to their computers all the time, chatting, playing video games or surfing the web. There is no texting, ipads or whatever technological nonsense there is out there. Back then people actually talked face to face, listened to cassettes and met in person. Now it's all text messaging, freaking itunes and quiet noise when you get a message on facebook.
I'm not saying people don't talk face to face anymore but from my experience - I talk to my friends more while typing messages on my computer or sending text messages. We live so fast in such busy world and the technology is right there for us to use it. But I can't help but feel, that 20 years ago the people who were friends in high school were generally closer to each other than they are in modern times. A smile, a hug or a kind word spoken in some one's familiar voice can't really be replaced by emoticon, can it?

The atmosphere feels really warm and nostalgic because of all of that and it's all aided by the wonderful soundtrack. Both the original score and the great selection of songs from such legends like David Bowie, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and New Order are just brilliant and they perfectly illustrate the characters' emotional states and situations. Many scenes - two tunnel scenes in particular - are just unforgettable and the film's ending is absolutely lovely.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower also has a whole bunch or wonderful, meaningful and memorable lines - the film is narrated by Charlie and his narration in the film's ending has some of the most powerful lines said in movies in 2012. Everything he says is so truthful and even when his character makes some stupid choices - like for example the way he handles breaking up with his girlfriend - we still like him, because he is a smart kid, who is just a little bit lost and has a heavy heart.

The film was adapted from the book by the same title by Stephen Chbosky. I think it's really terrific that he himself wrote the script and directed the film - I don't think anyone but the author of the book, who has a profound connection to the characters he created, can translate the book on screen better.  It's a lovely movie, one that is destined to give courage and inspiration to many young people out there.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
(2012, 102 min)
Plot: Based on the novel written by Stephen Chbosky, the film follows Charlie, naive outsider, coping with first love and his own mental illness while struggling to find a group of people with whom he belongs. The introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who welcome him to the real world.
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writers: Stephen Chbosky (novel), Stephen Chbosky (screenplay)
Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller

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40 comments:

  1. Lovely review Sati. Couldn't agree with it more. I had a very different teenage than the people in this movie, but I still found it releatable. The leads were lovely. And it's the coolest thing ever that Chbosky made this film.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, I guess that all of us have very similar experiences growing up, no matter how our life looks like, we all have love and friend and families and the emotions in this film were so realistic it was very easy to relate to the characters.

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  2. I didn't get a chance to see this in the theaters. Hopefully, I can find a way to see this as I wasn't able to due to money and location reasons.

    Plus, I don't have fond memories of high school. Sure, I hung out with the Goths, metalheads, and other misfits but I still felt a bit out of sorts by the time I became a senior. I just hope this is one of the better high school films.

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    1. I think it should be released on DVD everywhere pretty soon!

      Same here :D But I still found plenty of familiar things in this movie, plus it's pretty hopeful and the empathy many characters have is very warm.

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  3. Quite possibly the best film of 2012 and one of the greatest films about adolescence…period. Yeah you could say I liked this movie.

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    1. Haha, glad you enjoyed it so much! I think it will make my top 10 of the year.

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  4. I'm just so excited to see this. OMG.

    I must admit though, I don't find high school to be at all that bad, haha. Then again, I guess it is okay now I'm head girl and stuff, everyone has to be nice to me ;)

    And yes, I would love to have Patrick as my best friend. That would be awesome.

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    1. I really think you'll like it!

      I liked some parts of high school experience, especially comparing to being a grown up with all the serious stuff happening right now it was a very happy time :)

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  5. Nice review, getting ready to write mine soon as well. Don't know if I agree with Watson's comments, though, a standout for me was Mae, I've always liked her and I think I liked her here more than others as well.
    Have you read the book btw?

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    1. Thanks! Mae was really good too, I liked her character.

      I didn't read the book, in last year I basically only read The Song of Ice and Fire and I'm still on book 4. That's a miracle I found the time to read those :D

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  6. Great review :) I really enjoyed this, definitely one of my highlights of the year. It does a fantastic job of translating the book onto the screen and, like you say, both Lerman and Miller are superb.

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    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the movie!

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  7. I completely agree with most of the things you said. I just saw the movie today and absolutely loved it. For some reason, I connected so much with the story and with Charlie, that I literally cried for the last 5 minutes of the film, especially during the reveal. One of the best films I have seen this year for sure. Oh, and you're right about Watson, she was the weakest link!

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    1. Glad you loved the movie! I didn't cry but I was very moved by the ending. Yeah, Watson just didn't fit the character, I wish they cast someone else.

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  8. Now that you mention it, perhaps someone else would have been better in Sam's role than Emma Watson... but I liked her in it anyways. I also agree with everything else you said about the movie, so there's really nothing to add :)

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    1. Thanks! I just didn't buy her in that role.

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  9. Great review! I absolutely agree with you that Emma felt miscast. She's just not that strong of an actress. Miller on the other hand, he was wonderful.

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    1. Thank you! I agree, I usually like her work, but she was such a miscast here, no matter what she did she couldn't really create strong work.

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  10. I can agree that Emma Watson was the weakest link of the trio, but I liked that her character was intentionally more subtle (despite her reputation) and not overtly in-your-face like she could have been. I really loved this movie, and I was surprised by how much I loved it. I fell head over heels for Ezra Miller; now I must watch We Need to Talk About Kevin just for him!

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    1. Oh, I think you will really like "We Need to Talk About Kevin" - it's a very heavy film, but it's great, one of the best from last year.

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  11. I just reviewed this movie yesterday as well and I similar positive thoughts. I really thought I'd hate it given the concept behind it. Luckily there's enough realism to cover up some of the typical High School drama.

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    1. I had a feeling I'll like it and I liked it even more than I expected :)

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  12. Great review! I thought this had some great performances, but I mostly agree on Watson. Lerman, however, was phenomenal, and is on my Best Actor ballot. :)

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    1. Thank you! I don't think he will make my list, but he was very good, especially for such young age.

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  13. What an awesome review, Margaret!

    It's too funny that Emma Watson is so sweet and innocent she doesn't want to watch the Rocky Horror sequences from the film. She would NOT want to hang out with my teens, that's for sure. they watched Rocky Horror before they hit puberty and quickly moved on to more intense shit. :-P

    Thanks for the great review -- I am even more excited about seeing this movie now.

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    1. Thank you so much!

      Haha, I think it's actually kinda sad when someone is too shy to watch certain kinds of scenes, they are missing out on so much!

      I really think you will like this movie, it's very warm and extremely well made.

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  14. The trailer was a bit too wishy-washy and teen angst driven but I have been hearing great things about this movie. Looking forward to rent it when it becomes available! Good review Sati :D

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    1. Thank you! I hope you'll enjoy the movie!

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  15. Really nice review! I agree on all points with you, except Emma Watson. She was a bit shy still on-screen but I felt she meshed well enough into the trio that she didn't have to be a stand-out star. :)

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    1. Thank you Katy! I didn't dislike her work, but I couldn't help but feel that someone else would be more suited for her role. Still, I think she did well, all things considered.

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  16. Nicely done, Sati. I think I agree with all of that. Things were probably better 20 years ago in HS when it was all face to face, even though painting it as all smile and hugs was off base. LOL There were fights and lots of drunken brawls, and hooking up... I say too much. LOL.

    I didnt think Emma Watson did that bad though, cmon, she was decent here!

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    1. Thank you! Drunken brawls and hooking up are great memories to have :P Beats the hell out of playing farmville on facebook and getting digital livestock from your friends :d

      She was decent, yes, but for me comparing to the boys she was kinda in the shadow :)

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  17. Went to an advance screening expecting your usual "shy kid in high school learns to stick up for himself" sort of feel-good drama. This movie is so much more than that - I was truly blown away by the mature themes and moving characters. Mental illness, sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol... I think the writer/screenwriter/director said it best in the Q+A after when he said it was a film that looked at the emotional aspects of that point in life without being sentimental. I really cared about these three teens - Charlie, Sam, and Patrick - and their story never felt cheesy. Just real, and moving, and touching. Go see this movie!

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  18. I couldn't agree more about an author adapting his or her own book: there's really no better way to get the most accurate filmic depiction than by doing that. But that fact that he directed it as well... that's just remarkable. Really enjoyed this flick.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the movie too! I didn't read the book so I don't know how well they translated it into the movie but it was very well made and the characters were wonderfully written and really came to life on screen.

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  19. Great review here, Sati. Glad you dug this movie as much as I did. I thought all three leads were fantastic (even Watson), and the music selection was superb. My only beef was that the characters didn't recognize "Heroes" by David Bowie... I mean, c'mon! They were into this huge music scene but somehow that was an exciting new song for them? I don't buy it.

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    1. Thank you! Oh, i just adored the music. The songs went so well with the scenes and the original score was lovely. Yeah that was kinda strange, though it did add a bit of cuteness to the ending :)

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  20. Glad you enjoyed Perks. The performances were excellent, and definitely a good depiction of the high school experience, which is nostalgic for all age groups. Good point about he is the observer, and I guess that's partly why story feels so personal.

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    1. I really liked how he was a clear protagonist, but all the characters in the movie still had a lot to do.

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