“Dear Friend, I’m sorry I haven’t written in awhile, but I’ve been trying hard to not be a loser”
―Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
I born in the 80s, so during my adolescence phase i was well exposed to 90s pop-culture which is in my case it means boybands, Southeast Asian MTV (the good ones where it was only Nadya Hutagalung and Mike Kasem, later wil be joined by Sarah Sechan & Jamie Aditya), and also coming-of-age teen flicks genre: from 1995 clueless to 1999 she’s all that, never been kissed, and 10 things i hate about you. Of course my love for coming-of-age films expands when the internet throws me the brat pack of the 1980s, which is why, i have an unexplainable love of The Breakfast Club. Coming of age films especially the one simply set in high-school, not just another fantastical bildungsroman, is always my favorite, and it has been scarce, until The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Fair warning: this article may contain spoilers.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is adapted from an epistolary coming-of-age novel under the same titled. It was written by Stephen Chbosky, who also adapted it into screenplay and direct this very film. I am not sure if it happens before or not, but i think it is quite rare for an author to adapt and then direct his literary work.
Set in early 90s clearly still under a heavy influenced of the 80s (at least in its music reference), we follow the life of a teenage boy called Charlie. It’s his first time in high school, and he was nervous, everything seems to be worlds away from middle school. He has no friend and seemingly too shy to try to make one, so he always wrote a letter to this unnamed friend, delivered through monologue that allows us a peek of his inner minds. By a sheer force of what little courage he has, he befriends two seniors Patrick and Sam, and instantaneously develops a huge crush to the latter. Through the two half-siblings, he was introduced to a band of non-conformist misfits from the senior class. And through his english teacher, he seeks guidance. As the films progress with Rocky Horror, Sadie Hawkins dance, literary novels, cannabis-infused brownie, and mixtapes, we were taken to get to know Charlie, who may not be just another Wallflower after all.
I have say again, how rare it is for an author to be able to adapt their work into films, let alone direct it like Chbosky did in this particular movie. I had the time to read the book after watching the movie. I have to say the movie works a lot better than the book, just like i found with The Hunger Games. The book is not bad, it was just okay, and it is quite rare to find a movie made out off a bad book anyway, usually it’s a great book adapted into a bad movie, not vice versa.
Coming-of-age films is usually focus on the moral and psychological transition or growth from youth to adulthood, marked by personal growth and changes as its ultimate characteristics, a self-discovery and philosophical development through a series of events in form of emotional responses. In this movie, we view the world from Charlie’s POV, and we did not know at first what was the turmoil inside his head, as it progress we were taken through a collective events dealing with friend’s suicide, abusive relationship, drugs, sexual identities and discoveries, relationships, friendships, heart breaks and first love, and of course the little twists of the forgotten, yet traumatic, past.The issues are various but not overwhelming, while the secondary issue fleet passed by, the viewers would never stray too far from Charlie’s dilemma which stays hidden until moments away from the story climax.
The core strength of the film is the brilliant casting, in my opinion. Each of the lead, in this case the trio Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller, were brilliant i each roles and of course works beautifully together. Logan Lerman portrays the shy and awkward Charlie with an adorable charm and vulnerability, Emma Watson, and obviously Ezra Miller stole this one for me! (He got my attention ever since that chilling performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin against Ms Tilda Swanton!)
I think 80s and 90s kid will enjoy the movie, if not for its theme, then for its nostalgic value. Not only because it was blissfuly set in early 90s with all its cultural atributes (hello, mixtape!) but also because it was decorated by wonderful music that has that old 1980s feel, which is perfectly complementing the mood of the movie. I’ve been listening to it on the loop, from The Smiths’ Asleep to XTC’s Dear God and Bowie’s Heroes.
The movie got both critical and commercial success, i think because this is not just a simple coming-of-age movie, it transcends generation with its sentimental value. This movie is not simply about love and friendships, it speaks of families, of overcoming problems, of overcoming fears and self-doubt. I think many, many people can reflect on that.
“I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.”
―Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower has not been released in local movie theatre in Indonesia. But you can get the home media which was released in February.
Read my thoughts about the book in bibliothēchē
Pictures are taken from IMDb.
Picture on the title card is from Nylon magazine.