Two reasons I am reviewing “one of the best films of 2012”: It is a book adaptation of the 1999 epistolary novel by Stephen Chbosky (and Chbosky directed! How jealous am I?); it is about an aspiring writer. The bit about him being a future writer is in the background (probably just a fragment left over from the writer’s own youth), but it is felt.
Wallflower is about a high school freshman, Charlie, who begins the school year fresh off of a psychiatric breakdown and tentative recovery. Wandering around miserable and alone, a couple of seniors notice him and take him under their alternative-clique’s wing. Antics and messy relationships ensue, as well as motivation and history reveals.
I liked this movie almost as much as all the other reviewers singing its praises. I thought at least one main character was not true to the time period, and I am not a fan of teen sex (especially being treated casually or glorifying it; on the other hand, I was very thankful that it was not depicted graphically). It was produced by Mr. Mudd Productions, which also did Juno and Ghost World, two movies which I have on my DVD shelf. I have to say, as the credits rolled, I was impressed with the movie. The only big disappoint for me was the narration at the end. I would recommend that you go to mute at the end and play some soft music, so as not to be submitted to a highly unnecessary and trite, cheesy, juvenile exposition. (How harsh!) I also found it silly to portray high schoolers as the principal actors in the city’s production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I agree with some of the critics that Charlie’s friend’s suicide is a dropped thread and that none of the characters have any real consequences from their sometimes illegal and often reckless behavior. Makes you wonder if college would have been a better setting for the whole thing.
Otherwise, it has all sorts of memorable and well-done moments, including the twist ending. The movie is much more complex than the average coming-of-age movie, and there are layers to every character’s story. So, not as good as Juno or Ghost World, in my opinion, but still very worth watching if you like the genre.
I also kept thinking about how Benevolent would make a similar movie, if done right.
How is it about writing? Barely. I suppose some of Charlie’s awkwardness arises from his interest in literature. He is rejected in school largely because he is smart, especially in the arts, and connects more readily with his English teacher than anyone else. Then many of the scenes revolve around his wanting to grow up and be a writer. Like I said earlier, I suspect this is largely just the effect of the writer of the book (and film adaptation) growing up an aspiring writer, himself.
Now, I completely understand that writers write writers because they know writers, the same reason they often stick to characters with artistic backgrounds. I sympathize. But I think that writers (and artists and people in the humanities) as characters is way too overdone. I want to take this moment, then, to encourage you, dear writer, to write other types of characters. Like an accountant. Or a real estate agent. Or a bankruptcy lawyer. Or a migrant worker. The world–readers!–need more great stories about the rest of everyone.
Let’s see if I live up to my own demands. Benevolent: academic and humanitarian. The Night of One Hundred Thieves: baker’s widow. (So far, too obvious.) The Journey of Clement Fancywater: receptionist. The Family Elephant’s Jewels: tattoo artist, writer, mom. (Woo! Not doing too well.) Seasons series: girl detectives. Rails series: circus apprentices. Spin series: student. The Marvelous Life of Mary McG: time traveler. Frame 352: academic. Domestic Coupling: retired collector. Pollen Season: humanitarian and housewife. The Last Book: writer. Wow, I suck. I am fulfilling my role as a writer writing about what is comfortable, very well. At least, about half my books don’t have a profession for the main character yet, so there is still opportunity to change my cliche ways.
And there’s still hope for you, too. Write that story about a garbage man or a contract construction worker. I dare you. And watch Perks of Being a Wallflower while you’re at it.