“Perks” brings a new dimension to coming-of-age

High school sucks.

This is an almost universal truth; if it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many films and novels centered around those four troublesome teenage years. Ask almost anyone you come across and they’ll probably tell you that their high school years were some of the most hellish they’ve ever experienced.

While there are already plenty coming-of-age movies about high school, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, takes it one step further by tackling tough themes such as sexuality, drug use, depression, bullying, and suicide, to name a few.

Don’t let the somber themes fool you, though; peppered throughout the film are enough bits of comic relief, heartwarming moments, and intense character development to make this more than just a cheap teenage drama.

I can say with 100 percent certainty that, even after seeing it at least 15 times, this film hasn’t lost its resonance or relevance.

There’s a reason the novel made the New York Times bestseller list, and was even banned in some high schools for its mature themes. It was removed from many school curriculums and libraries when parents complained about the content. Because, as we all know, educating teenagers on difficult issues is totally inappropriate and won’t help them at all.

The novel of the same name, also written by Chbosky, was published in 1999. The story takes place in the early 1990s and centers around Charlie as he navigates his freshman year of high school with his two new friends, Sam and Patrick. A series of letters written to the reader/viewer helps narrate the story with his inner thoughts and emotions.

The movie was released in 2012 and features Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller as the star trio.
As the movie opens, we learn through a narrated letter that Charlie has spent time at the hospital. Although we don’t know the reason yet, we are told that he doesn’t have any friends. He also states that he doesn’t want the reader to figure out who he is.

While this is certainly a somber way to begin the film, it is powerful in establishing a general idea of who the main character is.

Although this may seem sad already, it only gets worse from here.

Similar to the aforementioned letter, the characters’ backstories are strategically spread out through a series of flashbacks and narrative comments that occur through the duration of the film.

I found this to be a very compelling storytelling method; because Chbosky isn’t in a hurry to give away all the characters’ secrets, the anticipation and mystery lasts until nearly the end of the film.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a painfully relatable character. Lerman is convincingly awkward throughout the entire movie. A tearful mental breakdown towards the end of the movie will keep the viewer choked up and brimming with anticipation.

The last time many people saw Emma Watson was as Hermione in the “Harry Potter” films. However, she takes on an entirely different character in this film as Sam, Charlie’s love interest. She is a free-spirited and fun-loving character who has her own secrets to share with the audience.

Ezra Miller plays the part of Patrick, who is easily the funniest character in the film. While some might write him off as the comic relief, he too presents some of the biggest struggles any person can go through in society: being gay. Put that person in high school, and the struggle can be even worse. Miller navigates these struggles beautifully, and the viewer never doubts for a moment that his emotions are genuine.

There are other characters in this film obviously, most notably Charlie’s sister, Candace (Nina Dobrev) and Mary-Elizabeth (Mae Whitman). All of the characters have their own unique struggles and plotlines. Any viewer would be hard-pressed not to find a character that they can relate to on some level.

This film holds a permanent spot on my list of top movies. No matter how many times I watch it, it never fails to give me that warm and hopeful, yet somber, feeling as soon as the credits roll. I recommend it to everyone I know, and insist that I be there when they watch it so I can experience the magic all over again.