Thursday, January 10, 2013

Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

I watched a bunch of movies on the plane ride to Manila, okay? Let me get this out of my system.

Fear not, fellow world-weary pseudo-intellectuals! The Perks of Being a Wallflower dodges the teenage movie trap of being derivative, boring, and/or completely brainless. Instead, it's refreshing, different, and dare I say it, moving. The success of the film can be attributed to three factors: the strong screenplay, based on a book by the director; the earnest performances of the three leads; and the story's reverence for good music.

The movie focuses on Charlie (Logan Lerman), who dreads his first day of high school. In his narration, he hints that he has been through something traumatic that's kept him away from other people. His first days as a freshman are marked with classic tropes:  sitting alone at lunch, getting shoved into a locker, having the English teacher encourage him, etc.

His life changes when he meets step-siblings Patrick and Sam. They're seniors, and comfortable with their roles as whacky outcasts. They're also perceptive and compassionate. When Charlie gets high and confesses his trauma to Sam, she tells Patrick, and from then on, the two take Charlie under their wing. A slow buildup to the end of the year follows, with a big bump in the middle, naturally. The twist at the end made my eyebrows shoot up -- yes, this movie has a twist!, and no, it wasn't all a dream -- and it worked because it brought everything back to the beginning, and beyond.

Another great thing is that The Perks of Being a Wallflower offers plenty of lessons. The main one, which alludes to the title, is that you can learn a great deal when you hang back and listen -- that is, when you become a wallflower. I suspect we've all been wallflowers at one time or other. The other theme is that every family is dysfunctional, some more than others. But it can work when we're there for each other. Finally, there's the power of music -- writer/director Stephen Chbosky includes songs that meant something in his life, and weaves them through the narrative. In the movie, the music symbolizes the friends' defiant stand against convention and the thoughtless, imitative behavior typical of their peers.

Kudos to the excellent work done by the young artistas, especially Lerman as the fragile Charlie. Growing up is usually painful, and gentle souls like Charlie are particularly sensitive to the pain of others, in addition to their own. Chbosky has crafted a fine cinematic interpretation of his novel, which I shall now read. And by "now," I mean "possibly eventually, when I carve out time."

Adieu, dears, adieu.

P.S. Waiting for our delayed copy of A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time novel. Amazon Prime, why has your two-day shipping failed us nowwww? Wah.

Summer Book Recommendations