Choosing the seat at the back of Wenjack to stay under the radar… having headphones in or reading a book to look like you have an excuse for sitting alone in the cafeteria… sound familiar? Maybe to some of us. Well, for all us true wallflowers of the world, the film adaptation of the 1999 novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky is a true inspiration, and a must-see. The themes explored are ones that almost every young adult can relate to: feeling excluded, misunderstood, alone. While the movie is at times humorous and light, it also addresses serious issues such as mental health problems, sexual abuse and homophobia. The film is realistic in the sense that it exposes these issues without necessarily producing a solution. It also shows us that it is, in fact, okay to be a wallflower sometimes.
For those of you who have not read the novel, (which I HIGHLY recommend you do), the story follows a teenage boy’s experiences in his first year of high school, where he finds himself feeling isolated and lonely. Charlie seems to fall through the cracks, as he struggles with the suicide of a friend. He is a wallflower. That is, until he meets Sam, a vivacious senior, and her fun loving step brother Patrick, who take him in and give him a place on “the island of misfit toys”. The story traces Charlie’s experiences with his newfound friends as he learns to participate in, rather than merely observe life.
Although it may sound cliché, the author was actually able to uniquely capture how it feels to be…well, a wallflower. Someone who sees, but does not do. And amazingly enough, the film seems to have captured this sentiment almost as well as the novel. Now, I will rarely admit that a movie is “as good as the book”, but I somehow fell in love with Charlie, and even more in love with those who took the time to let him in.
This had a lot to do with the well-selected cast. Emma Watson beautifully captures the essence of Sam, a girl who has overcome a challenging past but has pushed forward and embraced life rather than being held back. Her Step-brother Patrick is skillfully played by Ezra Miller who, through his character, shows us that it’s okay to laugh at oneself. Patrick refuses to let the harsh reality of being homosexual and surrounded by homophobes get him down. Logan Lerman takes on the role of Charlie, and does not disappoint. He flawlessly captures what it means to be an outsider, looking for a way in. This is a movie full of beautiful and inspirational characters.
The film does not attempt to merely paint yet another portrait of an angsty teen that finds his place in society and lives happily ever after. Instead it exposes the struggle to find a fit, perfect or otherwise. And things do not necessarily end happily. But the film is about finding what makes you afraid and moving on. It’s about trying new things, pushing past your comfort zone and dealing with it.
While the movie does not necessarily advocate for the best of choices among adolescents, what with the use of drugs, drinking and partying, what it encourages is living life. Yes, sometimes that means doing stupid things.
The film gives hope that even misfits can fit somewhere. Don’t be deceived by the fact that this is a story that has seemingly been told before. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is truly original, inspiring, and well worth seeing for both those who have and have not had the pleasure of reading the novel.