The Perks of Being a Wallflower, actually.
This movie got to me. Really. At the end I laid down on my bed and listened to the song through the entire credits, head spinning just a little.
And I love that about movies. That’s why I watch movies. That’s why I want to make them. If at the end, you feel like you’ve been holding your breath the entire time, well, they did something right.
I haven’t read the book. I almost bought it but for some reason they like to make books more expensive when the movie comes out. So I was reluctant to fork over 17 dollars for the tiny, flimsy paperback book that it is. Well, that was a mistake, because as I write this I really wish I knew what the original text was.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower takes you through a socially reclusive young man’s journey through his first year in High School. Within that year, Charlie goes from being the quiet boy to, well, being the quiet boy with fantastic misfit friends. Alongside that, we are gradually introduced to the thing that has been bothering him almost his entire life, and which dips him periodically into a strange depressive state involving pills and blackouts… I won’t spoil it. Watch the movie.
The fantastic thing is, despite all the drama involving Charlie, it’s not even really about him. I don’t particularly feel for Charlie, to be honest. I feel more for his friend Patrick, who is a fantastic character right from his first appearance in the film. I feel more for Sam, the girl Charlie immediately falls for, and incidentally Patrick’s step-sister.
Overall, what this film brings to mind is that none of them have it easy. They’re all dealing with the little things, and the big things, that haunt all of us in life. It took me back to a time, not so long ago, when I, like Charlie, could not seem to come to terms with the things in my past that continued to cause me pain. And it made me think about how, very likely, without even knowing it, I have always been surrounded by people who have their own ghosts and traumas to deal with. And in the end, none of us really ever fit in because what is there to fit in to? There can’t possibly be a mold to fit us all, seeing as we’re all so disturbed and deformed by our own demons.
Every day new ghosts are created and every day more and more people struggle to fight them away. Such is High School. Such is growing up. And most of all, such is life. But as they say in the movie, you can’t control where you come from, but you can control where you’re going.
I am painfully aware that my ghosts may never leave me completely. But, like Charlie, I find hope in the thought that despite the things that drag us down, there are people around us who are willing to help pull us up. And people that we can help pull up. And in a cycle like that, all that we can do is try to make sure no one gets left behind.
As in any proper critique, I do have to get critical. I think I’ve made it clear why this film really hit home for me. But, as any film, it has its shortcomings. And perhaps they stem from the book. I don’t know, but I’ll point them out nevertheless.
First off, Rocky Horror? Don’t get me wrong, I love musicals. Love them. But aside from painstakingly re-enforcing what we already know about the characters, what was the point? It was already clear to me that Patrick was gay, that Sam had the hots for Charlie, (and vice-versa), and that Charlie needed to be pushed out of his shell. But did it have to be onstage? As Rocky? In shiny gold underwear? I don’t think so. I really don’t think these scenes brought anything useful to the film or the story.
The other thing I found very disturbing was that underlying little plot about his friend having shot himself. First off, this comes up very abruptly. Sam all of a sudden feels sorry for Charlie when he tells her about it, which leads to him being accepted immediately into this new group of friends. All that is fair enough, so far. But Charlie never, not once, even so much as mentions the name of this friend, or what he feels about losing him. We don’t see the effects whatsoever. Aside from him being introverted, which we assume he must have been beforehand, nothing points to the idea that he lost his best friend recently. That seems strange. Is that the friend he’s writing to? Unclear. If so, why doesn’t he have a name? Does he even exist? Maybe I missed something.
The final thing I will point out has to do with the writing. Charlie narrates the film through the letters he writes to his “friend”. As a stylistic tool, this is acceptable. That is how the book is written, that is how they chose to make the film. Good decision, in theory. Except I don’t feel that relationship strongly enough. He doesn’t seem to gain anything from the writing, he doesn’t seem to connect with his “friend” at all. It becomes simply a narrative tool, and one which offers very little to the film.
Perhaps I’m being harsh. Overall, I did enjoy it, and I would watch it again, and will probably even get around to spending those 17 odd bucks for the book. Maybe at that point I will write again, and perhaps I will be able to offer more researched criticism.
In the meantime, read the book, watch the movie, and good luck with those ghosts.