I kinda wish someone had warned me about this film, and at the same time, kinda happy I had no idea what was coming. If I had known exactly what this film was about, I may have been slightly reticent to go see it by myself, but I think I would have been equally as embarrassed to have seen it with other people.
Why? Because five minutes in, the film managed to grab hold of me on an emotional level like no film has done in decades, forcing me to fight against tears tooth and nail right through until the credits began to roll. And I am not exaggerating. Not even remotely. And I just barely won the fight.
With that in mind, I'll keep the details to a minimum, but I warn you, if my words move you to see this film, you may want to go in prepared (or wait for the DVD), although little could have prepared me for such a beautifully honest and gut-wrenching film.
Charlie is a loner. He had a best friend, but that friend is gone. He's about to start high school, but just doesn't quite fit in anywhere. A brilliant student with a complete lack of social skills. That is, until he finds every ounce of courage he has to speak with Patrick. And suddenly, he is introduced to a world of people kind of like him. People who don't need to question him to understand him.
He found a band of wallflowers.
I was well-aware that this little indie-ish film had been extremely well-received by critics, and has managed a moderate box office. However, what piqued my interest is the fact that, as Oscar murmurs pick up strength and sail from whispers to rumbles, critics after critic have randomly called this movie out of left field as a film that should up "for your consideration." All I could think was, "Wow, really? A teen movie is THAT good?" Well, without hesitation, I can say with all honesty that it is really that good. I will go as far to say that it may just be the best film I have seen all year.
Much of the Oscar whispers focus on two things: the flawless script by Stephen Chbosky (who adapted the film from his own epistolary 1999 novel of the same name and also directed) and Ezra Miller. After a phenomenal turn as a tormented teen in last year's exquisitely disturbing "We Need to Talk about Kevin," Miller's Patrick is indeed an incredibly memorable young man, playing a teen held back at school with skin that has become so thick, he is not a victim of the torment of his peers, but has instead learned to embrace it. Emma Watson, in her first post-"Harry Potter" starring role, is stunning as Sam, in terms of both her physicality and her acting, the beautiful young woman who is trying to put her past behind her and find her place in the world. But, in my humble opinion, the bulk of emotional gravitas radiates from the film's rising star, Logan Lerman. As the conflicted, unstable and completely lost Charlie, Lerman's performance is nothing short of revelatory. With every look, awkward touch and utterance from his mouth, he is like Michael Cena stripped of sarcasm and overloaded with brilliance and emotion.
And while their screen time ranges from actively supporting to mere minutes, even the secondary roles, played by Paul Rudd as "that teacher" that some of us will remember and cherish forever , Kate Walsh ("Private Practice") and Dylan McDermott ("American Horror Story") as Charlie's parents, and Mae Whitman ("Parenthood") as one of the wallflowers, add to the incredible emotional complexity, lending this film such an unobtrusive air of honesty and genuine feeling that to not be deeply moved by the story as it unfolds before you is practically inconceivable.
If you have always been the pretty one with the perfect grades or the perfect job, the popularity, and attention focused on you, maybe you won't quite get it. But for the majority of us who have ever spent time wondering where the hell we fit in in this world, whether it be back in high school...or right now...keep the Kleenex close. If this film does not move you to your very foundation, make you think of where you have been, maybe where you are, or worry about what your kids might be silently going through, I don't know what else would.
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is such an acutely executed film, it overflows with authenticity thanks to extraordinary performances by an almost implausibly perfect cast of young talent. If the AMPAS voters fail to take notice, it will be a shame, not just because nothing else hit the big screen this year like it and it deserves the extra recognition, but because an entire generation or two (or three) should take notice.
Yes, it is THAT good. In a world where we need to assure our younger generation that "it gets better," parents, teachers, wallflowers? Please, take notice. And grab the Kleenex. You've been warned.
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