Tuesday, 19 February 2013

WE ARE INFINITE: my kinda review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

"Welcome to the island of misfit toys" As Watson’s perfected American lilt hushes these almost prophetic words, reach for your seatbelts everybody- the film has kicked into full gear. But it’s those beguiling eyes framing each vowel that give voice to their “suffering”. The film centers on a group of teens marginalised by mainstream American culture. Where the jocks and prom queens rule the bleachers, it leaves very little room for Gatsby reading pseudo-intellectuals with a penchant for The Smiths. They are the metaphorical yogi bears to the high school’s homogeneous Barbies and Kens. When Ezra Miller’s Patrick enthuses that he “LOVE football”, there is an overt sense of mocking that’s taken to point where we question is he or isn’t he. Thankfully the whole American high school cliché is given very little screen time and is placed merely as a back drop- in a way that leaves the focus very much on Charlie and the other “misfit toys”. One review I heard labeled this as a film very much “about teenagers for teenagers”- patronising or what? With many films of this genre, the “moral” tends to be grossly overpowering and clumsily addressed- I admire how the film presents the “we accept the love we think we deserve” message in a take it or leave it kind of way. Introduced as a frank and candid aside, it only becomes truly relevant during the emotive dénouement- when we realise the multisided influence it has held on events.

You may be thinking the whole teenage angst and societal alienation vibe whiffs of a Catcher in the Rye type ride. And well, you’re right. Coupled with themes of mental illness (although never explicit in CTR), unreliable narrators and the actual reference to the book, its kind of undeniable. But where do they differ, I hear you ask? Lets put it this way, where Holden Caulfield is dive bombing off that symbolic cliff and “heading for a fall”, Charlie’s outlook is way more positive- after heroically cliff grappling through the whole film he finally “figures it out”. The closing line “and in that moment I swear we were infinite” reclaims his sense of control allowing Stephen Chbosky’s film to resonate with a tone of survival. Something that is tenuous at best within Salinger’s novel- we are persuaded that things will turn around but see little foundation for this reversal of fate.

Nostalgic, authentic and inspirational- to name but a few of the praises I have for this novel-to-silver screen adaptation. As with any great film we are taken on a journey, one which we cannot foretell its destination. We emerge through the tunnel-lit darkness into a world with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose. A wallflower, loud and proud.

Catch it on DVD new release.

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