Painful Adolescence & the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of being a Wallflower, adolescence, adolescent development, problems in adolescence, issues among teenagers

This is a terrific movie that opens your heart layer by layer as you watch the screen. It is clear that growing up is a painful experience and that’s part of what makes it feel real. The awkwardness, the living in fear of peer judgements and the reaching out to try something new despite the fear…..it’s all there.

One of the best parts of the movie are the characters who grow up by learning that; we sign up for  love with those we think we deserve. I see that all the time in my office. It’s very hard to reach out to the good guy or woman we could really trust. It’s so easy to not feel good enough though it may be the other person who isn’t good enough.

Stumbling around with the wrong persons is really part of what high school is all about. It’s a delight to watch all three main characters do this.

A lot of the problems in high school are in part because it’s so hard to be real about who you are & what you want. Combine that with the suffocation someone else may direct towards you like Mary Elizabeth who lets Charlie cop a feel & then announces “I’m so glad you’re my boyfriend!” and it’s a wonder anyone gets out of high school alive.

I loved the character of Patrick that Logan Lerman plays; he’s a great friend because he’s smart, creative, audacious & funny. Wish he’d been my friend in high school; he definitely would have made it better than mere survival. My only note of inauthenticity was there is no way four seniors would be friends with a freshman…..but maybe that’s how it was for Stephen Chbosky who both wrote & directed.

Another favorite part was when Charlie did three very hard things to make his life better! He went to a football game alone, then he took another brave step by changing his seat to be closer to Patrick. Then he went to the dance alone. His courage was inspiring. It is doing the next right, hard thing that makes life better even when you are terrified.

It made me think of  16-year-old Whitney Kropp who was elected Homecoming Queen this year as a cruel joke in Michigan. (The movie is also clear about the cruelty of high school.) Whitney will need her courage when she arrives at the dance decked out & beautiful because the citizens of West Branch all chipped in for a gown & a makeover because they were so astounded by the harm her peers had tried to inflict.

Then there is the moment when the sister knows the right thing to do even though she’s at a swim party; she’s not so self-absorbed that she can’t think & respond. She trusts herself that the phone call is important & acts immediately.

Something else to appreciate about this movie is that it’s not a typical Hollywood production and I believe that’s partly because the story is located in Pittsburgh and was filmed here. In real life my enthusiasm for standing up in the back of a truck would be tempered by breathing in the car exhaust trapped in the tunnels. Pittsburgh is a great city and you get some glimpses of that on screen.

This movie gets so many things right that it is a gem. Go see it.

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