Over the long weekend, our family watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower. There is a lot to like about this movie, not the least of which is seeing Logan Lerman (of Percy Jackson fame) further develop his acting chops as Charlie, the depressed lead character of the movie. Also, Hermione Gra…er, Emma Watson is wonderful as his quirky crush, Sam. I especially loved Ezra Miller as Patrick, who, though comfortable as a gay teen, struggles with the fact that he must hide his relationship with the quarterback of the football team. I wasn’t familiar with Miller and the movie makes me want to watch We Need to Talk about Kevin.
The strong acting in the movie helped to bring home the heavy topics presented in the story. The main character, Charlie has struggled with depression after his best friend committed suicide some undisclosed time earlier. It is also revealed that Sam was molested by her father’s boss when she was a child, which led to some promiscuity during her early years of high school. In addition, Charlie witnesses his sister being slapped by her boyfriend and he feels confused and worried when she decides to stay with him. All the while, the viewer sees flashbacks to Charlie’s childhood around the time that his aunt died.
During the course of the movie, Charlie learns about himself and his peers, he experiments with drugs and has his first failed relationship. Very late in the movie, Charlie has a psychotic break when he understands that his aunt molested him when he was six.
While it seemed that Chbosky threw an awful lot into Charlie’s life, the movie handled the issues with grace — at least in my opinion. The high school experience felt real to me — especially that weird no-man’s land where teens try to deal with major life questions and problems and the right song can make everything okay — at least for a little while.
This is why I write for teens. I love to explore that middle ground between childhood and adulthood where adolescents are trying to navigate very real life and death issues (sex, drugs, mental illness) while they are also trying to define themselves. They have so little control in their lives, so the definitions come from the type of music you listen to, the clothes you wear, the group you choose to hang with and whether you take school seriously or not.
I also have a couple of teens living in my house. The morning after we watched the movie, my husband asked the boys what they thought of the many issues that Charlie faced in the story. It led to a discussion of our sons’ experiences in their schools and how they’ve dealt with transitions as they try to find their places in the social structure of their schools.
The movie’s strong themes stayed with me for a few days, leading to a great talk with my kids. And to think that I just wanted to watch a feel-good movie during the long weekend.