Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I guess I should warn for spoilers, even though this was a book first, and a book that was published in 1999, so if you haven't read it, really not my fault if you get spoiled. Also, I don't know if anything in here counts as a spoiler, but you never know what people consider spoilers anymore.

I had the pleasure recently of attending an advance screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, based on the novel of the same name written by Stephen Chbosky  (who also wrote the screenplay), starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman -- as well as handful of other talents whom I had no idea were in this until their names flashed on the screen during the title sequence (like Paul Rudd as the English teacher and Nina Dobrev as the older sister). And despite my snarkiness at the start of this entry, I have not yet read the book. The only knowledge I had going into the screening was that a) it's set in Pittsburgh (a town with which I am infinitely familiar, as half of my extended family resides there) and b) it's sad -- the latter courtesy of one of my friends who is currently reading the book.

As someone completely unfamiliar with the source material, this movie was amazing, truly. It will be hard for me to adequately explain quite how it's amazing, for as often as I rely on words, they tend to fail me when I need them. I sputter incoherently, attempting to string together sentences that sound halfway intelligent and digging into what used to be an exhaustive vocabulary for words with more punch than "awesome". Let me say, if it matters, that there were grown men at the screening who admitted later that they laughed and cried -- at a movie about a bunch of high school kids.

Emma Watson (as Sam) chose the perfect post-Harry Potter role -- her character is almost the complete opposite of Hermione, and she plays her so well that you forget entirely about the proper English schoolgirl she portrayed for over a decade except for that one little bit where her American accent slips but we'll forgive her for that because she's awesome. Logan Lerman is outstanding as Charlie, beautifully understated at falling apart but trying desperately not to. Ezra Miller's Patrick is absolutely enchanting, a kid who can't be serious because then he wouldn't be able to hold it together. These are the kinds of characters with whom you not only fall in love, but also that you miss when the film is over. I found myself eager to see what happened to them after the picture faded to black. Almost immediately after it was over, I wanted to watch it again. The characters spoke to me in a way so few movies can manage. Despite the fact that they're a bit more wild than any of the friends I had in high school, they made me nostalgic for a time when I thought high school was everything in the world, when life after was distant and frightening but high school itself wasn't much better.

The screenplay was insightful and funny and poignant and heartbreaking. It deals with some very heavy material that is absent for most younger actors unless it's in a Lifetime movie or ABC Family series, which would normally be chock full of melodrama, and it deals with these issues in a way that is relatable and believable even to someone who has absolutely no idea what it's like to face any of that stuff. The kids in this story deal with abuse and suicide and depression and being an out teenager, and I think the worst thing I had to worry about was my grade point average. Charlie's voiceovers (as previously mentioned, voiceovers tend to piss me off) fit very well considering the epistolary format of the novel -- also since a great deal of the conflict in the story centers in Charlie's own head, the voiceovers do an excellent job of letting us get a peek inside his troubled mind.

Let's not forget the music. The film's soundtrack is like a secondary character. It makes the scenes come alive, it harkens back to a time when we thought we knew everything. Music tells a story, and the music in this film does a fabulous job of adding to the story.

I'm honestly not sure what else I can say, but if you need any further convincing that this is an incredible movie that everyone should see, perhaps multiple times, then you should know that Anderson Cooper is obsessed with it. And as Anderson Cooper is a perfect human being, you should all like the things that he likes, because he is too awesome to be real.

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