Wallflower the New Breakfast Club
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 9 Sep
DVD Release Date: February 12, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: September 21, 2012 (limited); September 28 (expanded)
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual contact (including references) and a fight, all involving teens
Run Time: 103 min.
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd, Melanie Lynskey
While modern technology has certainly come a long, long way and today’s hairstyles are far less embarrassing, the depiction of high school life in The Perks of Being a Wallflower really isn’t all that different than it was in 1985 when the late John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club was the movie du jour.
In fact, the immortal words of The Breakfast Club’s resident jock Andrew Clark could practically be Wallflower’s chief thesis: "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."
Capturing those high school years in all their awkward glory, writer/director Stephen Chbosky, who also penned the best-selling novel by the same name, definitely has his finger on the pulse of the joys, fears and angst that most high schoolers deal with. While we'd like to think—or hope, anyway—that teenagers have become more sophisticated and less mean than we were, the film only confirms the unsettling reality that bullying, hazing and cruel antics are alive and well.
No wonder then that Charlie (Logan Lerman, Percy Jackson & the Olympians), the shy, bookish protagonist who everyone’s whispering about when the school year starts already has a running countdown to graduation. Just 1,384 more days, and he’s free.
The main reason Charlie keeps to himself is that he's already been through a lot outside the classroom. Ever since his best friend committed suicide, he's simply been unable to cope. Even with a team of psychologists at his disposal and prescribed meds, he can’t seem to shake a sinking feeling of utter hopelessness. Underscoring his despair, he barely left his house during summer break and spoke to almost no one, save for the occasional family member.
Now beginning his freshman year, Charlie narrates his experiences in a diary he calls "Friend." Seeing how even his family walks on eggshells around him, he feels positively invisible to the world. But when a senior girl named Sam (Harry Potter alumna Emma Watson) takes an interest in this wallflower’s well-being and insists he join her on the "island of misfit toys," it’s a real game-changer.
Describing Sam as "the kind of pretty that deserves to make a big deal out of itself," Charlie is immediately drawn to the fact that she doesn’t see herself that way. Naturally, he falls for her—and hard—but she's already dating a total jerk. A faithful friend, though, Sam introduces Charlie to the rest of the lovable oddballs she hangs around with including Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), "Ponytail" Derek (Nicholas Braun, The Watch) and the loudest of them all, the wise-cracking, constantly philosophizing Patrick (Ezra Miller, We Need to Talk About Kevin).
Even with a tight-knit community of friends around him, Charlie still can’t help trying to fit in, no matter the cost. So he experiments with alcohol, drugs and clandestine games of "Truth or Dare." While all these shenanigans are the stuff of every high school movie ever made, it’s the secret lives of the main characters that ultimately have the most dramatic impact. Shown in flashback, these revelations give further insight into why Charlie, in particular, is the way that he is. It’s heart-breaking stuff, and you can’t help wanting to give all these kids a big hug.
Thanks to a sheer lack of schlock in the script and strong acting - particularly from Watson who definitely makes a favorable impression in her first major post-Hogwarts role with a flawless American accent to boot - The Perks of Being a Wallflower will definitely resonate with teenagers and basically anyone who feels like s/he doesn’t fit in.
This updated Breakfast Club is a just-as-uncomfortable reminder of how hard high school can be without a few friends along for the ride. For people who have faith to lean on, it’s a troubling memo about the fallen world we live in and how we need to be intentional about showing love to everyone who feels alone.
- Language/Profanity: The occasional use of he--, bit--, as-, plus one f-word. Sh-- is also used several times. A handful of gay slurs and euphemisms for sexual acts, plus God’s name taken in vain or paired with da--.
- Sex/Nudity: Several conversations, some more explicit than others, about “hooking up,” and most of the teens are admittedly engaging in pre-marital relations. Several couples are shown kissing and touching each other at parties. Sam admits she’s already had multiple sexual partners and started at age 11 after her dad’s boss kissed her. Charlie fondles a girl’s breasts. Patrick is unabashedly gay, and at one point, Charlie catches him making out with the resident football jock, Brad. Patrick and Brad start a relationship, and we hear about their drunken sex and how Brad’s father condemns their actions. Patrick briefly kisses Charlie, and in one scene is dressed in high heels and a bustier. One character reflects on being molested as a child. Virginity pledges are made fun of.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Underage drinking and cigarette smoking is depicted. Drugs, including hash and LSD are used recreationally at parties. We see Charlie hallucinate after popping LSD.
- Violence: When Brad’s father caught his son having sex with Patrick, he beat him (he has unsightly bruises and puffy eyes as a result). Feeling embarrassed by what he’s done, Brad enlists the football team to not only make his life miserable by teasing him, but making sure they pound him senseless, too. Some fighting is shown after Charlie stands up for Patrick. A girl is slapped by her own boyfriend. Charlie feels bad after his aunt dies, thinking he’s the one who wanted her to. Mention of Charlie’s friend’s suicide. Fears that Charlie may hurt himself are confirmed, but before he acts out, help arrives.
- Spiritual Content: While Charlie’s family is Catholic, faith is more about going through the motions. You’ll see them taking Communion or saying the Lord’s Prayer in one scene, then taking His name in vain in another. One of the characters says her beliefs are "punk" and "Buddhist."
Publication date: September 28, 2012