Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book- 1999, movie- 2012)

Writer (book AND screenplay) /Director: Stephen Chbosky
Type: Coming-of-age high school dramedy

Charlie- Logan Lerman
Charlie's mom- Kate Walsh
Charlie's dad- Dylan McDermott
Charlie's sister, Candace- Nina Dobrev
Sam- Emma Watson
Patrick- Ezra Miller
Brad- Johnny Simmons (young Neil from "Scott Pilgrim vs. the world")
Mary Elizabeth- Mae Whitman
Alice- Erin Wilhelmi
Aunt Helen- Melanie Lynskey
Dr. Burton- Joan Cusack
English teacher, Mr. Anderson- Paul Rudd

Personal Exposition- My Life as a Wallflower
Yet another topic that begs for an AA reference:
"Hi, my name is... and I'm a wallflower."

Other than my time participating in concert choir, high school musicals, that's probably the best way I could describe myself in high school. I was a wallflower... and I was okay with that. Most of this was to maintain my grades. Can't say that I'm a huge nerd because my grades were above-average (I believe I was 136/522) so I wasn't exactly among the best and brightest.
And the rest of it... I just have trouble making friends. I'm afraid to participate socially because when I was younger, I had a few experiences where I wanted to get involved and nobody wanted to hang out with me. Either because I was weird or they thought they were better than me.

Ultimately, that wound up defining a lot of my social life. I've had occasions where I made a friend or two, but a year later, they'd make other friends. People with stronger personalities that I didn't feel I could compete with for my former friend's attention. I got really lucky in middle school when I had classes with a couple of  the same people and things naturally worked themselves out.
But high school kinda felt like hell because, except for lunch period one year and concert choir, I never hung out with anybody. Just didn't have that confidence to put myself out there to form friendships.

Then in college, my junior year, a couple people started asking me to hang out with them... they were a bunch of weirdoes too and I couldn't imagine why they were interested in me. But after a while (can't remember if it was weeks or months), I took a chance simply because I was in no position to turn down friends.
(So I guess you could say that was my "Cady Heron meets the Plastics" moment).

It's a little trickier in the workplace... because I want to maintain the façade of professionalism, but I also don't want to come off as a snob or worse because I don't socialize. What I need to do, I think, is learn how to read people so I know which ones I can be gregarious with and which I can't.
I'm not sure if that makes me more of a wallflower or a people-pleaser. :P


I'd seen this book on the shelves for a couple years, intrigued by the title. But I think I need the extra push from the fact it'd become a movie... I didn't get to see it until it came out on DVD (thanks a lot, Hollywood, and your stupid wide-release-only movies).

According to my Goodreads page, I read this within a month. But if I didn't pace myself, I could have done it within a day. It was the most compelling book I'd read in a long time.
The first one I devoured and connected with since "Twilight" (fall of 2008) and the first that affected me personally since "The Giver" (2000-2001)- where it stayed with me for weeks afterwards.

I guess you could call it divine intervention or perfect timing, but it was like this book was something I needed to read because it corresponded with something I was going through.
Or what I had been going through a while... periods of depression where it was hard for me to participate in my own life... being unemployed, putting all this energy into the application and interviews processes, and my efforts going unrewarded... [this went on between 2011-2013 and I finally got "the call" last March]

The Book
Spoilers Ahead for who we hadn't read or seen this book/movie
The book wound up being different than I pictured it would be. I thought it'd just be about a shy protagonist struggling to survive high school. I didn't know Charlie had a history of depression or that his best friend had committed suicide. Or had any idea about the troubling secret in his past that he'd just come to grips with.

This was a heavy book in a lot of places. I remember multiple times where Charlie talked about bursting into tears, crying and such. Some was warranted as were the periods of depression and loneliness he experienced. I've had those kinds of moments myself. But after a while, I started to feel self-conscious about him being so emotional all the time. All while hoping "please don't have this be a reoccurring thing in the movie."

The book had a lot of sex and drugs. Not that I'm totally vanilla about all that. I just never grew up around all that. At least not until college where half the population were smokers and some of my roommates frequented frat parties and such. Charlie recalled a situation he was in where he was at a party and walked in on a girl being forced to give a guy a blow job. His new friend Patrick was gay and had a complicated relationship with a football player. After his [football player's] father caught them together, Patrick started taking Charlie to a certain park where he'd pick up random guys. And his other friend Sam used to have a reputation- when she was a freshman, she got taken to a lot of parties, got drunk and such...

They don't sugar coat much in this book. It's realistic, but not to the point where it's overbearing.
I remember reading it was one of those books that got challenged by school systems. With all the sex and drugs, it's hard to imagine why that might be.
There was also another scene that stuck with me. Throughout the book, Charlie's sister was really mean to him. Her boyfriend hit her once and their parents found out later on. But there was a point where she asked Charlie to take her to the abortion clinic.
What shocked me most was that their parents never found out about it, and in a way, that's a good thing. For both parties.

Despite everything going on, how challenging some of it was to get through emotionally, it was a cathartic read. I loved that Charlie was an avid reader. His narratives read the way I often write. They meander, touching on multiple topics at once, and just going on forever. And I didn't get sick of it. Loved the way he talked about the book he read for class (and that Mr. Anderson gave him for additional reading).
Mr. Anderson was such a great character. Probably will go down as one of my favorite fictional teachers because he was very supportive of Charlie. I liked him so much that I was afraid that of some big reveal later on that would undo this amazing teacher-student relationship he and Charlie had.

All the characters were defined so well that you could either relate to them because you saw yourself in them or people you knew.

The Movie

Because I'd already read and loved the book, I really didn't need to worry about not liking the movie. I already knew Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson series. Of course Emma Watson from the "Harry Potter" series. Nina Dobrev ("Vampire Diaries"), who didn't look anything like how I read the character in the book, played his older sister.

Overall, I was very pleased with it as a teen movie and also as a book-to-movie adaptation. A couple of scenes didn't make the cut. Most were for good reason (toned down the sexual content and Charlie only had one major breakdown scene, which was in the epic 3rd act climax... I write that as if it were a cliché, but I felt like it was handled very well). One scene I kinda missed was Charlie taking his sister to the abortion clinic because that was a great bonding scene for them. Luckily, that was available via the DVD extras.

I liked how it was approached as a dark comedy where it knew where to be light, but also to go very dark. And it did so without completely losing me. Certain movie overdo it with the drama and I never felt that here.
The tunnel scene is probably the most iconic in the book, where Charlie says "I feel infinite"... that was done so well... it was really something special.
All of the actors played their roles so well. Especially loved Ezra Miller as Patrick. I'd only seen him in one other movie since ("Beware the Gonzo"), but he was born to play this character. Nobody else could have made him so hilarious and also grounded and angsty.
I'd never seen "Parenthood," but I can't imagine anyone else playing Mary Elizabeth (the opinionated Buddhist vegan) except Mae Whitman.

With him playing so many idiots, it's good to see Paul Rudd play a nice straight character with a really good moral compass... my only nitpick was that Mr. Anderson wasn't in the movie nearly enough for my tastes :P

Great use of music throughout. I'd only heard "Asleep" by The Smiths one other time... and it was part of the "Sucker Punch" soundtrack. Personally, I still prefer Emily Browning's voice to those lyrics :shrug: but that's just me.
Using "Come on Eileen" at the homecoming dance was inspired... especially how it was like Charlie's soundtrack for when he approached the dance floor to meet up with Sam and Patrick... and that's saying a lot because I HATED this song. I still don't like it a whole lot (sounds like a bunch of hillbillies who can barely carry a note), but I can't help appreciating in this one instance.
Then David Bowie's "Heroes" for "The Tunnel" scene... powerful stuff... wow

Aunt Helen and Dr. Burton

As for comparing to the two mediums (book vs. movie), the movie did one thing that the book really didn't... it explained Aunt Helen's presence in Charlie's life, their relationship and how it contributed to him being [pardon the language] fucked him up.

Towards the end of the book, something happened in the 3rd act that resulted in Charlie being hospitalized... to me, it was very vague and never fully explained.

I literally had to read on (where I posted my review of the book) that Aunt Helen molested him. Then other people commented how he psychologically exhibited those signs of abuse throughout the book- how it explained him being so emotional and such...

Not so much the fact that it happened to him, but I was frustrated that so many people picked up on this and I had no idea. Frankly, it made me feel like an idiot because to them, it was glaringly obvious.
In my personal defense, I had never experienced any of that and never personally knew anyone who experienced any of that... so how am I supposed to pick up on that?

I was also thrown off because Charlie kept saying Aunt Helen was his favorite person and he had nothing but good things to say about her. [Another thing that should be very obvious... that sense of shame and betrayal because it was at the hands of someone you really cared about and trusted].
And the way I read her character in the book, she read a lot older to me... someone as beautiful and young as Melanie Lynskey surely didn't come to mind. I expected someone much older with some gray-hair at least.

They were kinda vague about it in the movie too, but there was a bit of pay-off at the end. Where it was addressed. The breakdown scene begins where Charlie and Sam start kissing and she's rubbing his leg, startling him to the point where he stops... this image flashes on the screen multiple times and we see Aunt Helen's face intermingle where she says "don't wake your sister"...

Joan Cusack is in this movie only for a couple scenes as his doctor at the hospital. I loved her in this. She had such a comforting on-screen presence. One of those actresses I'd only see so much of, but enjoy being around them when they're doing their thing on screen. She was really good to Charlie where he was having difficulties. Definitely a quality over quantity type of deal.

Other Comments

Both medias have their give and take. I miss hearing Charlie's thought-provoking narratives, how he spoke about the books he read. The characters were represented well in both versions.
One negative I can derive is that we really didn't see much of his parents. Not a lot of interaction between them. I watched one of the deleted scenes and the writer/director talked about how great Kate Walsh was in it... I appreciated that she was good in the scene. I just wish the movie spent more time on her and his dad. I never fully connected with either of them.

This is one of those movies where, later on, I would like to see it with commentary. Just getting to know some of the actors more. Getting inside the director's head... it's amazing to me that the guy who wrote the book got to write the screenplay and direct the movie... it's so rare where writers have so much freedom with their material.
Apparently, John Hughes had bought the rights to it... but the movie got put on hold after his death. I read that it was Emma Watson's favorite book and I'd been under the impression she was the reason the movie happened at all. As much as I love John Hughes, I'm glad that this movie went to someone else. His work is great and I will love him forever for his Brat Pack movies, but something like this... I don't think it would have worked out quite as well with him behind the camera.

This movie was ultimately the reason I watched "Rocky Horror Picture Show" a couple years ago... I wanted to understand the whole phenomenon of it... I still don't quite get it :P but I'm still interested in giving it another go. Only next time, I'd like to watch with other people and preferably at an earlier hour so I don't FALL ASLEEP halfway through.
The last thing I remembered was the "Touch Me" musical number and I woke up halfway through the cabaret scene... I didn't know what the fuck was going on! Reading the synopsis later on, it said how they were coerced into it... I missed that entirely, so mentally, I wasn't engaged for the final 40 minutes.

I promise, I'm really good with weird :P but I'd like another chance to wrap my head around all that.

This is going to sound a little messed up, but I'll try to explain this:
This is one of those movies I like to watch when I'm going through something... where I'm feeling down on myself, lacking energy, PMSing or whatever reason... in an odd sort of way, it makes me feel better...
Not so much the "other people have it worse than you" cliché as the fact that it feels kinda good to explore things I'm feeling through these characters. It's healing :shrug:
That's all I can say, really... plus the fact I should see it with my friends, Sam and Dave, at one point so we can experience all those feels together :P

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