Sunday, September 30, 2012

"The Perks of Being a Wallfower": Logan Lerman plays a promising teen

First, let me say that if I want to get my own screenplay filmed, I wonder if I’ll need to rent an extended stay apartment in Pittsburgh.  For a second straight day, I see a film about schools and kids, filmed in the “City with an Entrance”, and in today’s film, the tunnels (specifically, the Liberty Tunnel under “Little Mount Washington”) become a significant prop.  (Don’t stand up in a convertible when going through a tunnel;  I once got cut off  by a truck in the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel, not far away; could have been a catastrophe.) The movies make Pittsburgh the most scenic city in the nation (except for Seattle, perhaps). 

I had thought that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, directed by Stephen Chbosky (based on his novel), would be a sequel to “Charlie Bartlett” (Sidney Kimmel’s 2008 film for MGM) because the protagonist’s name is Charlie, and in the previews, Logan Lerman at least superficially resembles Anton Yelchin from the earlier film.

In the story, if I track properly, Charlie enters high school – that normally means ninth grade – as a freshman, at age 15, to turn 16 on Christmas Eve.  That would put him a year behind. The “normal” age would be 14. It is still believable that this character, unusually articulate and verbal for his age, could start there. But later, there is some intimacy; maybe the filmmakers didn’t want to suggest underage activity under Pennsylvania law (which is pretty complicated if you look it up).  In any case, Charlie is cognitively mature enough to know what he is doing – now, but there’s a hitch.  Back to that later.
The film seems episodic and expositive. It starts with Charlie, a likeable introvert, writing letters, or a kind of diary, to a “friend”.  We don’t see cell phones and Internet, but we do see CD’s and 45-rpm records both, so we know the time is about 1990.  If this were a later time period, we might see Charlie blogging instead.  But diaries have always been important.  In the movie, Charlies types on a conventional ribbon and gets a typewriter as a present; by 1990, people already had PC's (and programs like WordPerfect).  

Charlie thinks that Sami (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) are dating, and rather likes watching things from the outside, like a kibitzer at a chess tournament.   Charlie says he wants to become a writer, but he needs people to write about.  He still needs to keep his distance. But, at a low-key “initiation” party, Charlie walks in on Patrick having a gay encounter with a make classmate.  Patrick asks him to keep a secret. But the incident will draw Patrick into his own real life.
In time, Charlie will migrate towards intimacy in both directions.  I think it’s perfectly natural for young men to want intimacy for more than one purpose.  In the heterosexual scenes, he finds that certain “natural” instincts are hard to control (I’m reminded of a similar scene in the TV series “Everwood” where teenage piano prodigy Ephram “loses it” prematurely when with an “older woman”, his first “experience”).  The film remains within the PG-13 area as to what it shows.

In the film's "middle section", Charlie grows enough to act in a musical -- specifically, "The Rocky Picture Horror Show", where the "penalty" is to go into drag.  It's rather tame and non-threatening, fortunately. (I saw the stage version in Minneapolis myself in 2002.) 

The movie gradually drops hints of Charlie’s troubled past, and there is an eventual brief breakdown, which is not completely clear in its cause and resolution.

Logan Lerman  (now 20) does make you really hike his character, or like him. He still seems a bit like “Bobby” in the show “Jack and Bobby” where Bobby protects his mother in a particularly well-written campfire scene back in 2005.  He was never “just a kid”.

Summit Entertainment offers this official site (will start shockwave) link. 

I saw the film Saturday afternoon at the new Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield, VA, in the largest auditorium, curved screen, prefitted to regular aspect. There was a small crowd.  

There’s also a little side diversion with an English teacher (Paul Rudd) who (after recognizing Charlie's obvious talent for "writing") ferrets out Charlie’s shyness and gives him a copy of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”.   But people did read that in ninth grade when I substitute-taught.  I don't think there is a film of the novel (legal reasons) but Lionsgate has "Chasing Holden" (2001), by Christopher Eberts and Malcolm Clarke. 

Could someone envision a "sequel" about what happens a few years later in college (and what happens to Patrick when he goes to college. since he is a graduating senior in the movie)?  I guess one can envision a movie about an older "professional wallflower" like me.  I like my perks.  And remember, a wallflower is not a wildflower.

And why does the movie title say "being" rather than "becoming"?

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