The Perks of Being a Wallflower got here at a really attention-grabbing second for millennial/Gen-Z cusp excessive schoolers. Based mostly on the favored 1999 novel by Stephen Chbosky and tailored by Chbosky in 2012, Perks arrived a decade in the past through the top of “the Tumblr period,” when teenagers on the time like myself gravitated to the web site’s curation of hipster tendencies and nostalgia-inflected aesthetics.
On a median day within the early 2010s, possibilities have been excessive you’ll come throughout a crying Logan Lerman GIF, a picture of the Perks solid sitting on some bleachers, or a screenshot of one of many movie’s iconic aphorisms, “On this second, I swear we’re infinite” and “We settle for the love we expect we deserve,” in your feed.
Although the overuse of these quotes and footage finally sapped them of their poignancy, Perks signaled an essential turning level within the cultural dialog round psychological well being. Amid a quickly altering social media panorama, lonely teenagers who yearned for connection may determine with Perks’s trustworthy, delicate exploration of psychological sickness, trauma, and social isolation.
After all, Perks deserves to be remembered far more than simply as healthful, twee on-line fodder. In distinction to the raunchy, male-oriented YA fare that dominated a lot of the 2000s, the movie launched another tackle teen angst for up to date audiences, harkening again to the nuanced work of John Hughes however with a extra introspective contact. It was a humorous and tender coming-of-age drama that celebrated the fleeting nature of adolescence — as a lot because it probed the complicated, underdiscussed points that got here with it.
Contemplating its relative vital and industrial success in addition to its affect on the string of thematically related movies that adopted it (specifically 2013’s The Spectacular Now, 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars, and 2015’s Me and Earl and the Dying Lady) it’s price wanting again on simply what precisely makes Perks so particular and formative.
Set in Pittsburgh within the early ‘90s, Chbosky’s soulful, piercing story of teenhood adopted the titular wallflower, a shy but sharply perceptive bookworm named Charlie (Lerman), throughout his first 12 months in highschool. Feeling invisible and excluded by his friends, he develops a friendship with homosexual, fun-loving senior Patrick (Ezra Miller) and a crush on Patrick’s candy stepsister Sam (Emma Watson).
Beneath Patrick and Sam’s encouraging wing, Charlie begins experimenting with LSD and weed, attending The Rocky Horror Image Present, and pursuing his aspiration of writing. Whereas indulging in these discoveries, Charlie wrestles with the psychological reprecussions of his greatest pal’s suicide the 12 months earlier than and a repressed historical past of sexual abuse from his late Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey). Missing closure from each experiences, Charlie struggles to confront his personal ache, at the same time as he makes an attempt to rehabilitate everybody else’s.
Along with its bittersweet emotional template, what instantly units Perks other than the typical American coming-of-age story is that Charlie will not be a typical American teen male protagonist. He possesses an countless wealth of empathy and compassion, a humility that isn’t disingenuous, a maturity that isn’t annoyingly precocious, and musical style which will come off pretentious on the floor however feels very true at that age, of wanting to soak up all the pieces that made you appear cool or moved you ultimately. (Who amongst us hasn’t had a Smiths part?)