The Perks of Being A Wallflower

December 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Posted in 2012 | 1 Comment
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Originally, I passed on this film because it had not looked that interesting to me.  But, after seeing “North Sea Texas,” I decided that I wanted to see it to compare an American and a European coming-of-age film with a gay character.  I was not surprised by what I found but it did evoke some pondering in me.  Where I felt that “Texas” was striving for “truth,” albeit a well-worn dose of it, “Perks” was happy to trade truth for sentiment, which seems true to me of Hollywood films in general.  Truth is more nuanced and is made in small moments on screen and can even be difficult to recognize and is often difficult to digest.  On the other hand, sentiment is big and loud and usually highly palatable.  To this end, “Perks” is full of actors 5 years older than their characters spouting all the lines in the moment that real people wish they had said in retrospect.  They exist in their own mixed tape version of “The Eighties” (in caps) where every poignant alternative song has come out around the same time.  That was my era and I have to tell you that the bullies in my school were never that bad, the alternative kids were not that impossibly cool and none of my visits to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” ever looked like that.  But, I have to admit something; I was not unaffected by that strange world where only one set of parents apparently existed and every kid had just as much time alone with a peer as he/she needed.  It would be disingenuous of me to say I was unmoved by several scenes and by the amazingly wise things that these kids said or did.  Which had me pondering about ¾ of the way through the film: when is sentiment art?  Is there a place in film for telling not the true story but the story of who we wish we are or were when we were sixteen?  There were times when, despite myself, I felt transported back to moments of my own vulnerability and brokenness, when I would have wanted the sort of healing those kids offered each other.  There is no insight to be had in a film like this but there is something cathartic that happens.  I honestly don’t know if that is good enough.

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  1. Oops. I realized that I forgot to do what I basically set out to do, compare “Perks” with “Texas.” So, here it is, down and dirty: The cinematography in “Perks” was absolutely bland. The directing (by first time director and author of the book, Stephen Chbosky) was heavy-handed and predictable (cue music and we zoom up from the snow angel…). However, the acting in “Perks” was better. Logan Lerman (“Percy Jackson and The Lightening Thief”) was remarkably better at displaying emotional pain than Jelle Florizoone. Ezra Miller (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) does flamboyant gay in admirable Hollywood fashion and Hermione gets credit for a really decent American accent. Not surprisingly, sexuality was presented in “Texas” much more frankly and with more kindness that “Perks,” for which it served more as cue to the laugh track. In the end, I think “Texas” was much more gentle and sweet and “Perks” was more poetic and emotional.


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