Tag Archives: MOVIES

Year’s Best:
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

There’s a line in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Patrick (Ezra Miller) says of his stepsister and friend, Sam (Emma Watson), “I keep telling her, ‘Don’t make yourself small’.” Perks, the second feature from writer/director Stephen Chbosky (based on his novel of the same name) is a film about all the ways we make ourselves small when we’re wounded and reeling from unbearable loss. And it’s about the people who ferry us safe to the other side.

Charlie (Logan Lerman), enters high school hoping not to be known as that kid who spent time in the hospital. He’s hoping to just make friends. After a bumpy start, he does, when he takes up with a group of misfit kids who love hard and feel deep. At the epicenter of this group are Patrick and Sam, who throw themselves at life — and the project of building-family with their film group — in ways bewitching to watch. When Sam tells Patrick she thinks Charlie has no friends, Patrick walks right into the next room, drink in hand, and raises a toast to Charlie, “our new friend. You see things, and you understand.” “You’re a wallflower,” he tells him, inducting him into their circle of friends. All around the room, kids raise their cups. It’s a moving gesture of the sort we generally leave behind when the earnestness of youth is done. It is breathtaking to watch.

Charlie finds family on this “island of misfit toys” and, through these relationships, unearths dark, suppressed memories that have warped his life since he was a young boy. Perksis many things. It’s a coming of age story, chock full of adolescent experiences — the school dances, the clumsy, or missed, opportunities for love, the teasing for being too studious or too gay, but it’s a coming of age story about teens fielding adult-sized problems, which Perks relevant for those of us who have long since come of age. The plot unfolds in undulating waves of information and emotion. Truths are revealed to be falsehoods. Wrong turns turn out to set things right. And people who’ve been both hobbled and elevated by their traumas and mistakes take the first hopeful steps, out of their childhoods, and into the world. Early on, Charlie says of his favorite Aunt, that she had things done to her and she got her life together. It’s meant to give them hope as they grappel with their own wounds. He turns out to be wrong about his Aunt. She didn’t transcend her past. But these kids might.

On a return visit home, after two months away at college, Sam reports back to Charlie with wonder in her voice, that there’s another world out there. And so there is.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower opened in limited release on September 28th. It opened wider this past weekend. With standout performances from Lerman, Watson and Miller, it’s one of the best films of the year, a coming of age story for anyone who believes in the possibility of transcending the past. 

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Arbitrage, Nicholas Jarecki’s Almost Masterpiece

I am a lover of the fall film. As a screenwriter, these are the kinds of films I aspired to write. Masterful, tour de force explorations of the human soul, in which characters undergo the kind of life-shattering experiences that force them to change. In these movies, the characters we root for nearly always rise to the occasion. They accept the challenge, they do battle (with themselves and the outside world), and often achieve their outside goals. But even if they do not, they are  transformed by the journey, made better for having endeavored toward some hard-to-attain goal — which makes for a happy ending of a whole ‘nother sort. I think here of a movie like Michael Clayton, writer/director Tony Gilroy’s beautiful masterpiece about a law firm fixer who comes face to face with his demons, and decides to wrestle them down. George Clooney’s Clayton looks who he’s been and what he’s been a part of in the eye. And though we can’t imagine how he fares after the end credits — what will he do for a living? who will he be now that his conversion experience is complete? — we leave the theatre or turn off the DVD believing that the low places have been made high.


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