Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Ah. Teen angst. Where would cinema be without it? No John Hughes. No causeless rebels. Jungles of ordinary foliage rather than of blackboards...

But writer/director Stephen Chbosky ("Jericho", Rent) goes Hughes one better: He wrote a novel called Perks of Being a Wallflower, which he then wrote the screenplay for and directed.

The story involves painfully shy Charlie (Logan Lerman, Percy Jackson in a former celluloid incarnation) who sort of accidentally makes a couple of friends at his new school Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller, We Need To Talk About KevinCity Island). Actually, young Master Miller is possibly playing his most normal character here, as the out-and-flaming charismatic semi-leader of a bunch of oddballs and outcasts.

Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh are the requisite clueless parents. Paul Rudd is the sensitive, role-model teacher. Tom Savini (of the special effects Savinis!) plays the belligerent shop class teacher.

The teenage rebel model of film, going back to James Dean, had kids rebelling against clueless adults, specifically parents. Teens were angry, see? For nothing in particular, back in the '50s. By the '80s and '90s, it was mostly not being understood, not wanting to live up to expectations, wanting to be meeeeeeeee. Whoever that was.

This is a different beast: The kids in this movie are more depressed than angry, and it's mostly due to directly being abused by adults or other kids. That's kind of refreshing. Sorta. I guess. World's a messed up place, dude.

Anyway, the kids are likable. Good characters. Parents are peripheral, as always. The Boy liked it. And I guess he's the demo. Or maybe 30-somethings are the demo, since the movie takes place 20 years ago. (I think John Hughes used to write about his own school days but dressed them up in modern trappings.)

I was confused because Sam and Patrick are obviously hip, even hipsters, some might say. But at one point Sam gets Charlie to dance with her to her favorite song, which turns out to be "Come on, Eileen". I don't know much about pop music but I wouldn't have thought a song that was released in 1982 (and was hopelessly square by 1983) could be edgy or hip in 1991 or 1992.

It'd be like The Breakfast Club rockin' out (unironically) to "Stayin' Alive".

But I have noticed pop culture these days comes less in waves than an avalanche.

I said after the movie that Emma Watson had to be least sexy starlet around. I had to explain Helen Hunt wasn't a starlet at first. Then he said Kristen Stewart. I guess she's a starlet, but she's also outright unpleasant looking, at least to us. Watson is quite lovely. She's just not sexy. (Not that she doesn't have her moments in this movie.)

It's apparently deliberate. And it's kind of refreshing. She seems more believable in this movie, I think, than if she had vamped it up. Also, and this is a wild notion, she might be trying to succeed more on her acting ability than personal pulchritude. (Some young actresses might have balked at playing girl-next-door to Marilyn.)

Overall an entertaining film. Less whiny than the average teen angst flick. Worth a watch.

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