Film Review: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

It’s taken me a while to get around to rewatching The Perks Of Being A Wall Flower. For a very long time it was a film that passed me by; viewed as nothing more than a strange “American Teen Flick” not to be taken seriously. Prejudices potentially holding sway, a film for a younger generation. Or maybe, however, it’s that my mind is unconsciously adding one and one to get three? Seeing Emma Watson and remembering the child star of Harry Potter, rather than the grown up women she’s maturing into? Refusing to trust and accept the films motives as a result. It’s exactly the same feeling I have towards The Bling Ring.

Whatever lukewarm sense of approach I held to the film, when Empire Magazine rated it highly – their review section giving it 4 stars and proclaiming it to be “An honest, affection-hooking, coming-of-age drama” – it instantly became a film I was going to see. No other reasurances were needed.

This was, however, 18 months ago and I still remember that when I saw it for the first time I just got it. It drew me in and connected with me. I bonded with the story. It’s not amazing, there really is a slight air of American teen flick, but I still gave it an IMDb rating of 7/10. Whatever flaws it has, I still enjoyed it. We became instant friends because we just understood each other. I watched it at a time when I was feeling lost, I was searching for a lot of answers in my life, and here was a film bringing to life that exact situation, that exact plot. The story of searching, of trying to make sense, of trying to find your place in the world. For me, right then, it was the perfect film to match my mood. It made me feel better, because fact or fiction, here was somebody else going through the same search I was. Real or not, I wasn’t the only one.

Rocky Horror - The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Time Warp forward to last night, and I, finally, let it back into my life. It’s been sitting on the shelf, patiently to come out and play. In fact, I’ve had the draft “set up” of this post saved on the blog since the end of May! The reason for this delay? time has just never felt right. I truly think, that for me, this film has to match my mood. For me, I almost have to be feeling a little lost, isolated and alone again before I can face it. It’s a film for when I feel I’m searching and need an ally. Recently, my life has become really turbulent again. There are a few positives, but increasingly stronger negatives and a life changing opportunity are weighing me down. And so the time, finally, once again felt right.

However, while my life may be turbulent, I am an older, different person. Things that make up the bigger picture may not be great but my view of the world, my reasoning and belief in life, the eyes I see time tick by with have changed. I’m still lost, I’m still searching, but the parameters of that search have have changed. Yes, it was a Saturday night and I was at home, watching a film alone, so I need to be careful about proclaiming I am no longer isolated from the world. No longer a Wallflower passed by. I’m now isolated through decision and choice rather than mental anguish. I no longer believe the world will come to you if you just sit around long enough.

The other major change, and once again I need to be careful here, is that I am beginning to find an interest in mental health and the reasons for our actions, our emotions and our personalities. Not in a career life defining way, especially as I’m still on my own journey of recovery and you can’t proclaim to be the next Sir Chris Hoy when you’re still riding with stabilisers. But this interest, this growing belief that nurture is arguably more powerful and more important to how our personality is shaped than nature, means that last night, my friendship with the film changed. I didn’t enjoy it as much.

Mental Health - The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

It was almost as though, previously, I had been so allied to the Wallflower search, that I’d missed the true foundation to this film. It’s not the wider search that’s important, but rather, the subtleties of its central character, played brilliantly by Logan Lerman, and his fight with mental health and childhood trauma. Suddenly, my connection with this film, with Lerman’s character completely changed. I truly emphasised with him. I felt the directionless mental struggle he fights; his constant sunsurness at trying to fit in and be noticed. But, this awakening to the real strength in the film also left me feeling that our paths our now very different. We connect because we’re both broken but the reasons for our failure are very different. He’s “batteries are not included” and I’m “batteries leaked acid all over the inside because you left them in unused for 2 years”. Or something like that. I no longer felt I stood next to him, but rather, stood across the room watching his pain. Glad he’s getting the help he needs, but only wanting to hear his story, rather than participate in it. To talk, to catch up, but somehow always feeling uneasy that I can’t provide the answers to his questions and that he now needs more help than I can give. We are no longer on the same search.

I would, however, say I still stand by Empire Magazines review of the film. It is an open and honest film, that combines with an impressively depressive and yet almost kitsch soundtrack (which, sadly, is slightly under utilised in places) to become a heartwarming story that emotionally tugs you with a power greater than it potentially should have. It isn’t the throwaway teen flick it potentially could be, but don’t expect miracles. The power of the film is hidden under the surface, a surface that is plainly “what you see is what you get” garnished with a predictable lack of character development or depth. It’s never boring and will raise it laugh. It’s just a shame it had to say what it wanted to say through characters that are so stereotyped.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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