Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Cinema File #98; "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" Review

I think I'm a little too old and jaded for this review. I just finished watching The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, and while I can definitely see highschool me digging the hell out of it and relating a great deal to many of the characters and their problems, bitter, gave up on his dreams by his mid-twenties me finds it all just a little bit tiresome.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is the story of a highschool freshman with a history of severe emotional problems finding acceptance among a group of friends on their way to college and adulthood. Before seeing it, without knowing much about the movie or the book upon which it is based, I mostly knew this as that movie Hermione is in where she's not all Harry Pottery, and if nothing else, I'd say it does a good job of establishing Emma Watson as an actress in her own right outside of her famous franchise in a way Daniel Radcliffe has yet to be able to do. I'm still going back and forth on what my overall opinion of the movie is, and ordinarily I'd wait to write a review until I had a more solid idea, but I get the feeling that this one will only get murkier in time.

The only movie I've ever walked out on in my life was Emma Stone's Easy A, which was just so insufferable in its attempt to present a world of the most urbane and whip smart teenagers that I literally very nearly vomited on my way out the door. The main trio of characters in Wallflower seemed to start out on much the same path, coming off as just a bit too smart and sophisticated for their own good. Luckily, by the end, the more somber and serious tone that developed cast them in a new light, as teenagers on the cusp of adulthood who want to be these kind of sophisticated people, and want to believe they are that cool, but recognize that they still have a long way to go. They went from being the kind of kids you only see in movies who I hate, to the kind of kid I was at that age, who desperately wanted to be like the kind of kids you only see in movies.

At the same time, a lot of their problems seemed just a bit too pat and cliched, especially in light of the reflective tone that seems to insist that at any given moment I'm about to experience something really deep and meaningful. The movie itself in its approach to sway me almost feels like that kind of douchy teenager who thinks all the little shit about his life nobody cares about but him is actually the most important stuff in the world, and that it will never get more pivotal than highschool. We've got teen suicide, child abuse, closeted homosexuality, love triangles, and all the typical coming of age tropes wrapped in a nice indie movie package, and at one point a character even remarks about how his life has become an after school special. I couldn't help but agree, and extend that same feeling to the entire film.  That being said it is an exceptionally well done after school special, but by the time we get to our climax revealing the dark secret of our protagonist leading into our ambiguous denouement of youthful pretension, I felt more than a bit cheated out of my big important life changing message.

Again, maybe I'm just a bit too long in the tooth to appreciate it. I will say the cast is pretty much top notch, at least among the kids. Dylan McDermott and the lady from Private Practice show up as parents for some reason, never seeming to add much to justify name actors even being in those roles, but our main cast of highschoolers all get their moments to shine. Watson and Ezra Miller have great chemistry as the brother and sister pair that makes me not only excited to see what both of them do next, but makes me finally want to get around to seeing We Need To Talk About Kevin (though strangely knowing that Logan Lerman was in the Percy Jackson movies doesn't make me want to see those any more passionately). Mae Whitman reminds us all that she can act despite what conclusions we may have come to after seeing her work in The Factory, Paul Rudd puts in a fine if understated performance as an inspirational teacher, and even Tom Savini shows up in a cameo as a gruff but lovable shop teacher, sans spring loaded crotch gun.

Growing up in the 90's, my inspirational outcast makes good movie was Angus, and I can definitely see this being the same sort of film for this generation of annoying little bastards in need of contemporary icons, even if its powers are now lost on me as an adult. Its at times hokey and cloying, but its all done with a sense of fun and enough earnest goodwill that I can't really fault it for not appealing to me, someone so far removed from its target audience. If you're young, or young at heart, there's probably enough here to satisfy you for an evening, and maybe even as a nostalgic point of reference down the road. Unless you're one of those cool kids, in which case fuck you, you can have Varsity Blues or whatever shitty movie reaffirms your charmed life.

Okay, maybe I haven't entirely gotten over those highschool years...

By the way, speaking of after school specials, does anyone remember that one where the girl has bulemia and vomits in jars that she keeps in her closet? I've been trying to think of the name of that movie all day and I can't remember. I always wanted to know if that was actually a thing, if some bulemics really did that. Why save it? Is it like a guilt thing, or is it just pre-planning for the next time they have to puke? Like when you see puke and need to puke, they can just walk into their puke closet for inspiration.

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