Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: I apologize to anyone who holds this book up as an essential piece of modern literature. If it speaks to you, so be it. I don’t want to take that away or diminish your personal feelings. That being said, this film adaptation came off as a bit insincere. Maybe it’s a better book than a movie, but my issue isn’t so much with how the story is told, it’s the story itself.
The main character is Charlie and we learn right from the get go that he’s spent some time in the hospital for mental issues and he has a best friend that killed himself the year before. And so this attractive and intelligent freshman begins the school year afraid of being a freak and a loser without any friends. Almost immediately, he puts himself out there at a football game, which he’s gone to by himself, and falls into a magical world of awesome friends from the senior class. These older kids genuinely take him under their wing and what follows is a series of idealized magical bonding moments where Charlie consistently proves himself to be witty, charming, talented, and well liked. Sure, he has a crush on Sam (Emma Watson doing a decent America accent), and he falls into a relationship he doesn’t really want with another girl, but really, he seems to fit right in with this group of kids who advertise themselves as misfits and outcasts, when really they are all brilliant wealthy social climbers with bright and promising futures. They all talk of having issues. One is gay and dating a closeted boy. One used to date a bunch of older guys and disrespect her body. But really, these kids have got their sh*t together. In the end we learn (although most everyone probably guessed about 45 minutes into the movie) what Charlie’s deep dark secret trauma is from his childhood. He spends some time back in the hospital, and then the movie os sort of over.
The whole thing feels like it was written by someone who never actually experienced any of the problems his characters do. It’s almost like an idealized version of how to cope with trauma and the emotional troubles of high school. On the surface these kids are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, but they seem to handle sex, rampant drug use, domestic abuse, bullying, and social ostracization with so much grace and class that it almost trivialized the issues for me. It’s almost like a fairy tale. I think an actual wallflower would find this story insulting and make them bitterly wonder why his magical group of friends hasn’t appeared yet, when the girl they have a crush on will tell him she loves him and kiss him, why he can’t magically excel in academics while struggling with depression and anxiety, and why he can’t navigate the social mess of high school with as much confidence and class.
There were some genuine emotional moments in this movie, and perhaps something was lost in translation from the novel to the screen (although the author of the book wrote the screenplay and directed the movie), but I found this 14-year-old story to be irrelevant to today’s reality or at least to any that I’ve ever known someone to experience. – D+