The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Quite by chance I ended up with a book-ended couple of evenings: from old age last night to late teens tonight. While there is no reason to compare the movies to one another, other than the fact that they are both excellent, the bracketing of a life span was an odd coincidence.

I responded to Wallflower in a number of ways. I’m not even sure I’ve managed to untangle them all yet. It was exhilarating, maddening, depressing, joyous, affirming, sweet, and even a little acerbic  In short, it captures high school with an astounding, if a bit heightened, reality. In fact, I think the only reason I haven’t rated this with 5 stars is that I’m not sure I want to go back to high school again soon. This isn’t a light, Breakfast Club kind of romp that you want to go back to often. It is an unfiltered  view from inside the mind of a teenager as he becomes a young adult.

Lerman (Three MusketeersGamerPercy Jackson) as our main portal into this world, manages a level of believably bruised innocence that allows us all to associate with his plight, or think we can. He is our anchor, our interpreter, and our guide. Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin), continues to impress me with both his charisma and his ability. He imbues the story with the necessary energy to keep it aloft as we learn all the hidden secrets. And Watson (My Week with Marilyn, and all things Potter) gave herself a good coming-out party with this transitional movie out of the Rowling-verse. Hermione, this girl ain’t.

Writer/director, Chobsky (Jericho) creates an cocoon world of children where adults play only tangential, though important, roles, while they grow and find their own ways. Very much like the real world of a teenager. Impressive in its own right. That he was able to migrate his story from novel to screen so successfully, both as writer and director, is also a major credit to his abilities. The book and film clearly resonated with audiences; both are demonstrable successes.

My only real gripe with the movie was the lack of setting the time period cleanly. Despite a number of clues, including retro-tech and specific cultural references, it was a hard to decide if I was watching today’s hipster copy-cat kids from the 2000’s or the original late-70s/early-80s kids who serve as their template. The most explicit clue is the use of Bowie’s Heroes (1977 ), which was clearly unknown to the characters despite it being one of his most covered songs. In fact, the use of the original rather than using the Wallflowers (amusingly enough) more recent cover of the song from 1998’s Godzilla is telling in itself. The fact that a number of descriptions list the story to be from 1991 (a third credible point in time) only points to the universality of the high school experience that was portrayed–one of us is wrong (likely me here and I don’t have the novel to reference) but it doesn’t really matter. It works, which is what counts. It becomes timeless–for good and ill.

Spend some time with this one. It is a roller-coaster of wonderfulness that you won’t soon forget.

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